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504 Ceremonial Law.
[Ess. XII. great end. It was not, for example, in pursuance of their own desires, but in obedience to the revealed will of Jehovah, that Abel offered his significant sacrifice that Noah built the ark-that Abraham became a stranger and a pilgrim in an unknown land, and offered up his only-begotten son—that Moses led the Israelites from Egypt to the land of promisethat Joshua destroyed the Canaanitish nations--that Samuel anointed Saul and David—and that Solomon built a temple for the honour of God, and for the temporary maintenance of a sacrificial worship.
On a very similar ground appears to rest the whole ceremonial law of the Jews. It was ordained for a season, and was intended to answer particular purposes in the progress of that line of Providence, which was destined to issue in the incarnation of the Messiah, and in the general diffusion of divine truth. And, since a compliance with these positive injunctionsinjunctions of which the reasons were, to a certain degree, concealed from those on whom they were imposed-required, in the nature of things, a stronger exertion of the principle of faith, than a submission to the moral law alone; we cannot but admire the mercy and wisdom of Jehovah, who accompanied his extraordinary commandments to men with a long series of conspicuous miracles, which afforded an ample evidence that those commandments were of divine origin.
But, whatsoever was the bearing and direction of the word of the Lord -whether his commandments were only positive, and ordained for a season, or simply moral and therefore unchangeable—it is clear, that unqualified obedience was the duty required in those persons to whom his word was revealed. Such is the plain dictate of reason, and such the frequently occurring declaration of Holy Writ. “ Obey my voice," said Jehovah to the Israelites, “and I will be your
Eys. x11.] Union of Faith and Works
505 God, and ye shall be my people, and walk ye THE WAYS that I have commanded you:” Jer. vii, 23. “ If ye will oBeY my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me, above all people, for all the earth is mine!" Exod. xix, 5.
Here it may be well for us to fix our attention on two general observations which our premises can scarcely fail to suggest to the reflecting reader. He will, in the first place, remark, that the principle of faith lies at the foundation of the principle of obedience. Without faith in the existence and authority of the Supreme Being, there can, in the nature of things, be no obedience to his commands; and, therefore, in the view of the writers of Scripture, no true righteousness
-no availing virtue or morality. And, secondly, since God has an undoubted right to an absolute government over his own creatures—since, also, he is a perfectly moral Being, and is pleased with no disposition of the human mind, which is not productive of a good moral result-it may reasonably be inferred, that our faith in God can be of no value or advantage in his sight, or, in other words, can never be the means of our justification, unless it is of such a nature as to lead into obedience to his revealed will; that is to say, into good works. Now, I apprehend, that these two positions contain the substance of the memorable doctrine of the apostle James, respecting faith and works.
“What doth it profit, my brethren,” says the apostle, “though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed, and be ye filled: nothwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I
in the Plan of Justification. [Ess. XII. have works; shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.... Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when be had offered Isaac his son upon the altar ? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect (or completed !9) And the Scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.... For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also :" James ïi, 14-26.
This passage was, probably, intended as an explanatory addition to the well-known declaration of the apostle Paul, that" a man is justified by faith, without the deeds of the law :" Rom. iii, 28. That it offers no contradiction to that declaration, a very slight consideration of its contents will serve to evince. The apostle James is here pleading for the superstructure of works; but the foundation on which he builds that superstructure is, exclusively, faith. We cannot indeed trace the history of Abraham without perceiving that the two apostles are in substantial accordance with each other. Abraham, like other men, was a sinner; but he cast himself by faith on the Lord, believing in his word; and it was in consequence of his doing so, that he received the forgiveness of his sins, His faith was counted unto him for righteousness. As a penitent transgressor, he was justified by faith, without the deeds of the law. But his faith was a living faith. It operated as a powerful practical principle in his soul. It wrought with his works, and by works it was completed. When he offered up Isaac on the altar, this was indeed the final triumph-the perfect
507 victory-of his belief in the promise of God, that, through this very Isaac, he should become the father of many nations. Thus, therefore, was “the Scripture fulfilled, which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness;" and thus, at the same time, we perceive "how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only."
While, however, it is satisfactory to observe, that this remarkable passage in no degree undermines the great doctrine of justification by faith without the deeds of the law, we ought, in the consideration of its contents, chiefly to direct our attention to the unspeakably important point, on which the stress of the apostle's argument is evidently laid. Let every one who professes a belief in the only true God hold in perpetual remembrance, that vain is the conviction of his understanding-vain the correctness of his creeddead and unprofitable all his faith-unless he is humbly endeavouring to bring forth those fruits of a virtuous obedience, which a Being of perfect holiness and absolute sovereignty, is requiring at his hands.
Having premised these general observations on faith and works, we may proceed to consider our present subject, as it relates more especially to the dispensation of the Gospel.
The law is declared, by the apostle Paul, to be "a schoolmaster," to bring us "unto Christ," Gal. iii, 24; a declaration, which, in one point of view, is of universal application, but which was evidently, in a particular manner, directed to the case of the apostle's fellow-countrymen, the Jews. While that people groaned under the pressure of an extensive ceremonial institution, they were incapable, in their own strength, of fulfilling even the moral injunctions of the Mosaic code; and to such of them as were awakened to any just sense of their true condition, it must have been
the Revealed Moral Law [Ess. XI. evident, that the curse pronounced against every one, who continued not " in all the things which were written in the book of the law to do them," was recorded for their condemnation. In the mean time, however, many of the ritual provisions, under the burthen of which they suffered, were calculated to point their attention to their Messiah ; and, by the whole system of their law, they were “shut up” from the false religions of their heathen neighbours, and kept, as it were, under tutelage, for Christ at his coming.
It appears, then, that the Jewish law, with its terrors on the one hand, and its types and protecting sanctions on the other, was, in an eminent manner, calculated to prepare the Hebrews for their Almighty Redeemer-for him who was to break all their bands asunder-deliver them from the burthen of their ceremonies—and unite them with the Gentile believers, in the fellowship of the same pure and unalterable faith. And, although the multitude of the nation rejected the Messiah, and despised his offers of emancipation, there were not a few among them who, like the apostle Paul, forsook their dangerous dependence on a ritual worship, and were made willing to suffer the loss of all things, that they might win Christ. They knew that the law, in which they had formerly trusted, did but sentence them to death; and now, in unison with the believing Gentiles who were alike condemned by the law of natural religion, they took refuge with their Saviour, that he might wash away their guilt in the fountain of his blood, and cover them with the robe of his own righteousnes. Thus were the original converts to Christianity, like their successors in every age of the church, justified by the faith of Christ, without the deeds of the law.
Now, after explaining the method which God has thus appointed for the justification of sinners, the apos