« PreviousContinue »
of salvation by grace through faith. That the opinion of self-righteousness prevailed amongst the Israelites in the days of Moses, is evident from his caveat against it in the ninth chapter of Deuteronomy. Not for thy rightecusness, says he to Israel, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess the land. A legal temper was the ruin of the Jews in the time of Christ and his apostles. Israel, who followed after righteousness, did not attain to the law of righteoussness. Where. fore? Because they sought it not by faith ; but, as it were, by the works of the law : for they stumbled at that &tumbling stone. They being ignorant of God's righte. ousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God*, The New Testament church, as soon as it svas erected, began to be troubled with legal doctrine. To set forth the danger of that leaven is the principal clesign of Paul's epistles to the Romans and Galatians. He shews, in these epistles, that the righteousness, for which alone we are justified, is 'not to be procured by our performance of any work or by our attainment of any good qualification as the condition of our inter, est in it; but to be received as the free gift of divine grace through faith. Hence it is called the righteousa ness which is of faith; and which God imputes to us without workst.
After the times of the Apostles, the opposition to the doctrine of free grace continued and increased ; but did not come to a remarkable height, till the beginning the fifth century, when Pelagius rose. Ile openly de nied the doctrine of the victorious work of the Holy Spirit in efectual calling; with which doctrine that dy
* Deut: ir. 5. Rom. ix. 30, 31, 32. 4. 3. •Rom. ix. 30. 11. 6.
justification by free grace through the righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ is closely connected. Though his errors were well refuted, particularly by Augustine, and also condemned by several councils.; yet they were , never eradicated; but, in one form or another, were still maintained and propagated by many. When the Papal Antichrist attained his height, the doctrine of jus. tification by man's works or inherent righteousness was the principal of his abominations : it was the head anch heart of Popery. Still, however, even in the darkest periods, there were witnesses against this error : Some of them, such as Bernard' and Anselm, in the communion of the church of Rome ; and others, who departed from that most impure communion, such as, the Wale" denses, Wickliffe, Hus. But in the sixteenth century, the scripture-doctrine of justification through the righteousness of our Lord Jesus imputed to us and received by faith alone, began to shine forth with such a peculiar splendor, as had never been known before from the times of the Apostles. In the preface to the Syntagma Confessionum, or Collection of the Confessions of the Reformed churches, it is observed, that all these Confessions teach the same doctrine concerning thia justification of a sinner before God; a doctrine, which is the very life and soul of the Christian religion ; and which our first reformers, such as Luther, Calvin, Beza, delivered, just as they found it in the holy scriptures. It would have been happy for the Protestant churches, if their public teachers had satisfied themselves with that simplicity, and had not attempted in various ways to corrupt this article, in order to render it more palatable to a carnal, self-conceited generation of professors. There are, in general, three ways in which the doctrine of the reformation has been deserted, First, instead of teaching, with our old reformers, that the righteous
less of Christ is our only justifying righteousnes; some have taught, that God, for Christ's sake, will accept our own sincere, though imperfect obedience, as our justifying righteousness. Secondly, there are some, who, though they allow the righteousness of Christ to be our justifying righteousness, yet maintain that our actual justification by it is not received by faith alone, but procured by our performance of the conditions of faith, repentance and sincere obedience. Thirdly, however much these legal preachers differ otherwise among themselves in their accounts of the manner in which we obtain justification before God, they all agree in disapproving the definition of saving faith delivered by our reformers, as a fiducial reliance on Christ crucified, or on the free promise of the gospel in him, for our own everlasting salvation, and in representing true faith as our willingness to comply with certain terms or conditions upon which, according to them, salvation is of fered.
These pretended improvements, but real corruptions, of the doctrine of the reformation were zealously opposed by Messrs. Marshall, Boston, Ralph and Ebenezar Erskine; Hervey, Gelatly and others, who were convinced that the old Protestant doctrine concerning justification by faith alone, the free access of sinners to Christ, and the nature of saving faith, was the same which had been taught by the Prophets and Apostles. No human writings are absolutely faultless; but it may be safely asserted that there are few equally intitled, with the writings of the Divines now mentioned, to the commendation of having represented the doctrines of the Bible in their native simplicity, free from the mixture of preconceived opinions. Nor is the the testimony, which these writings have obtained, of the spiritual
savonr and usefulness to the souls of the Lord's people; to be overlooked. My sheep, says Christ, know my voice : a stranger will they not follow ; but will flee from him ; for they know not the voice of strangers.
Such are the writings attacked by Mr. Bellamy in his Dialogues and Letters. Considering how much his performance, reprinted of late, and highly recommended by many teachers in our Israel, tends to perplex and unsettle the minds of church-members with regard to several precious truths of the gospel, the writer of the following letters was led to believe, that an essay to illustrate these truths, and to vindicate them from the misrepresentations of Mr. Bellamy and others, would be seasonable, and, through the Divine blessing, useful
In a Postscript to Mr. Bellamy's Advertisement, we have the following words: 6 It will be an abuse “ upon the publisher of this piece to suppose it in his « intention, to detract from the character of such wor
thy men as Mr. Hervey and Mr. Marshal, or to hin. “ der the perusal of their writings." One can hardly forbear remarking upon these words, that this pretended abuse seems unavoidable by a reader of Mr. Bellamy's work. For the errors, with which he charges Mr. Marshal and Mr. Hervey, are not only some unguarded expressions or inadvertent mistakes; but a variety of doctrines, connected with one another, which manifestly run through their writings in general, and which it is the professed design of a great part of them to establish. Nor, according to Mr. Bellamy, are they trivial errors, but most pernicious. He represents the faith inculcated by these writers, as " the first-born of * delusion ;" a faith, which, " having no support from pture, sense, or reason, is founded wholly in a
<heated imagination." He tells us, that their doctrine teaches men to “ hate the Divine law;" that it is « An“ tinomian delusion, leading to infidelity and atheism."
If these charges be well founded, it must be a good work indeed to hinder the perusal of the writings of Messrs. Marshal and Hervey. On the other hand, if they be false, such horrid blasphemy ought to be rebuked ; injured truth vindicated ; and a just commendation given to those communications of the faithful servants of Jesus Christ which are good to the use of edifying, and which have often, through the Divine blessing, ministered grace to the readers and hearers.
On the appropriation which is in the na
ture of saving-faith.
Mr. Bellamy inveighs with great severity against Mr. Marshal, Mr. Hervey and others, for teaching, that the language of the direct act of faith is to this purpose, I believe, upon the footing of the gospel-promise, “ that f the Lord Christ is my saviour, and that I shall have « life through his name: that the Lord is my God in " Christ, my light and my salvation." Persons, according to him, cannot use such expressions, without presumption, till they have found by self-examination
the sincerity of their faith and repentance. Such, he allows, was the language of assurance commonly useel by the saints recorded in scripture. But then, says her