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inquiry may be raised in various parts of the country which may lead to an improvement in the future series. In reference to subjects of more general interest, we are enabled to promise, with as much certainty as may pertain to any thing in this changing world, a great increase in extent and variety of original and important information in the New Series, of which a Prospectus will be found in this Number.
When we look back some months, to the time when a few friends met together in London, and addressed their brethren of like views and sentiments, in the “ Epistle to Evangelical Friends;" and when we cast our eyes over that document, and reflect how many individuals, in different parts of the country, have been led openly to avow their adhesion to the various sentiments contained in this apparently insignificant effort to raise the standard of scriptural truth,-more especially that of the paramount authority of Scripture as the word of God to man; renouncing the notion of an universal saving inward light, as destitute of a scriptural foundation, while the blessed doctrine of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in believers is avowed; as also when we consider how much belief in the great fundamental doctrine of justification by faith, the duty of public and private prayer, the advantage to be derived from Bible classes, together with the importance of family devotion, has gained ground in the circle to which our attention has been more particularly directed; we feel that there is occasion for those who love the truth as it is in Jesus to “thank God, and take courage," knowing that their labour, if wisely directed, shall not be in vain in the Lord.
FOR MARCH, 1838.
What saith the Scripture ?—Rom. iv. 3.
JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH.
(Concluded from page 39.) We see the same truth most clearly unfolded by the great Apostle of the Gentiles, who received his doctrine, not of man, neither by man; and who brings, in evidence of its correctness, that which the Old Testament Scripture declares of Abraham, that he believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. In this expression," he believed God,” we see the essence of faith ; a short epitome or abstract defini. tion of that golden link in the chain of salvation which connects the sinner, deserving of nought but perdition, with the fulness of righteousness, and the unsearchable riches treasured up in Christ, and consequently with the enduring smiles of a reconciled Father's countenance; for in Christ, and in those who are his, the Father is always well pleased. To believe in God is to take God at his word, to have full confidence in his equity and faithfulness, and, consequently, to rest assured that he will fulfil that which he has promised. Belief, therefore, honours God, whilst unbelief “ makes him a liar," and, with its insinuating sophistry and specious mock-humility, opposes itself at every step, and under every varied form, to the pilgrim's progress towards the land of promise, as his most formidable enemy, and as the sin which most easily besets him.
Simple as is the nature of belief, it is evidently often misunderstood and misrepresented. Some persons draw a distinction between “faith" and “ belief,” the fallacy of which is abundantly evident, when we reflect that these expressions are indifferently used by our translators as the version of one Greek word. Others make the term "faith" to mean “faith and works." This is somewhat like affirming that the word “root” means the whole tree. The root is an essential part of the tree; and faith which leads not to works is dead, that is to say, it is not faith at all. It were safer, then, for those who thus modify the language of our Lord, to reflect that he spake as the great Prophet, and as the very wisdom of God, when he said, “ This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” If this be THE work of God, what becomes of the sentiment we have been adverting to, or of the notion that grace is conveyed by the rite of baptism, as held (we wish we could say only) by the Church of Rome, which decided, at the Council of Trent, that," through the merits of Christ, God gives to those who are born again through baptism a quality called justifying grace; which, washing away every sin, renders it as pure as that of Adam;" and, “ though there is no express mention of this in the fathers, and still less in the Scriptures, it is, nevertheless, clearly deduced from the word to justify, which being effective, necessarily signifies to make just with the impression of real justice;"* or how shall we describe the delusive nature of the view of Barclay, who considers the truth to lie between Papists and Protestants, and tells us that" as many as resist not this light, but receive the same, it becomes in them an holy, pure, and spiritual birth ;" “ by which holy birth, to wit, Jesus Christ formed within us, and working his works in us, as we are sanctified, so we are justified in the sight of God.”
Others stumble at the declarations of the apostle James, that“ faith, if it have not works is dead, being alone;" while it is evident that, while Paul states that a man is justified by faith, James declares that it is real, and not pretended faith that justifies,—that a man's saying he has faith avails nothing, and that real belief must lead to its legitimate fruits; that he also contradicts the notion of the Jews, that belief in the unity of God sufficed for salvation, and asserts that works are essential to render a man's faith evident to his fellow-creatures ; but that, in the sight of God, faith is justifying; as he quotes the same passage of the Old Testamentą" Abraham believed God, and it was accounted unto him for righteousness;" while he asserts that whoever keeps the whole law, and yet offends in one point, is guilty of all; and that the ingrafted word (not the keeping of the law) is able to save the soul. Consistently with the view we have given, he asserts that
* Barclay, doubtless, derived from the Jesuits amongst whom he was educated, his fal. lacious ideas of the meaning of the word “justify;" a forensic term, which implies not make just,” but “to declare just.” See Is. v. 23, &c.; and on the Hebrew consult Professor Lee's Grammar, 2nd edit., p. 109. Barclay argues from the English, “This word justify' is derived either from the substantive justice,' or the adjective just;' both which words import the substantive that true and real virtue in the soul--that excellent quality,” &c. See App., p. vii., $ 7.
the harlot Rahab was justified by works; which no one, we presume, would assert to be by works of moral righteousness, but simply by faith, which led to her reception of the spies in peace.
We therefore find the doctrine to be very full of comfort, that "the just shall live by faith," that is, by believing those things which God has declared in his word, because God there speaks his will to us, that Gospel which is recorded that " we may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and believing, might have life through his name;" that we may “ know that we have eternal life,” and “that our joy may be full.”
To those who thus receive the Divine testimony it is not difficult to understand, that what may seem to the carnal heart "the foolishness of God,” in appointing this method of salvation, is wiser than man. Justification through faith alone brings salvation nigh to the returning and repenting sinner, to whom it is as the very embrace of a forgiving parent, and the voice of a father, exclaiming in accents of joy, " This my son was dead and is alive again, he was lost and is found.” Thus hope is communicated to the soul, as a stimulus to press after holiness. Gratitude, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, take the place of slavish fear; and love to God, and to his fellow-men, for whom Christ died, become written on his heart, as the very element of obedience, and the substance of the two tables of the Divine law. He can take up the language, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall be joyful in my God, for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.
But, whilst God's “ method of justifying sinners” beams a protecting and encouraging lustre on the heavenward path of the true pilgrim, as did the pillar of fire to the chosen race of Israel; on the contrary, the Lord looks out from it, as from the pillar of cloud, upon his enemies, and troubles their hosts; for the word which Jesus has spoken, and which shall judge them at the last day, for ever shuts the gates of Paradise against the self-righteous, the proud, the carnal, the self-conceited, who,“ being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousnesss, have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God." Thus “ God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.”
The real ground of the strong opposition which some make to this doctrine, and of the subtle perversions by which others subvert its meaning, and destroy its efficacy, is the pride natural to the heart of man. The reception of this truth brings forth the balances of the sanctuary, and, weighing in them all the good deeds of man in his natural state, all conventional holiness, all pharisaic self-righteousness, pronounces them lighter than vanity. By this mode of justification a poor, sinful man receives Christ, and with him salvation in all its fulness, just as a beggar receives an alms, of free grace, and for no merit nor deserving in himself, but simply because of the free and generous beneficence of the Donor. God thus" justifies the ungodly” by“ making Christ unto them righteousness;" reconciles sinners to himself, and imputes righteousness to them, as their sin is laid upon Christ; but excludes all boasting, and leaves man not so much as one rag of his own righteousness to cover himself withal, or one inch of ground on which to rear his favourite and oft-attempted Babel of human merit; for belief does not justify because it is a virtue, but because it lays hold on the promises of God. Were there any merit in a man's laying hold of the Gospel, he might, to all eternity," sacrifice to his own drag, and burn incense to his own net;" and evermore congratulate himself on the happy constitution of mind which rendered him wiser than his neighbours. But it is not so—the redeemed ascribe “salvation," in all its parts, “ to Him that sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb."
And not only does this blessed doctrine, of justification by faith alone, thus exalt the glory of Jesus, and lay low the pride of man, so that no flesh should glory in the presence of God, for that he is the only Saviour; but it also cuts off all the pretensions of those who would make a gain of godliness, by setting themselves up as priests standing continually offering sacrifice, or as deputy mediators between God and his creatures; and utterly confounds the whole superstructure of works of supererogation, confession, penance, mortification, pilgrimages, flagellations, alms deeds to the poor, voluntary humility, and legacies to the church, which was industriously erected by the instrumentality of an apostate church, in the night-season of ignorance and superstition; and this on the foundation of justification by works. It was, therefore, to the revival of this fundamental doctrine of the apostolic faith, in its primitive purity and vigour, that we are indebted for the glorious triumphs of the Reformation. With what clearness Luther and his associates discerned this star of hope, and how directly it guided them to the Saviour, may be seen by the following extracts.*
“I had, in truth,” says Luther, “ a hearty desire and longing to * See a little work, entitled, “ Jehovah Zidkenu," translated and published by the Religious Tract Society.