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On the opposition to the purity of Gospel
THERE is hardly any revealed truth which has not been openly contradicted or secretly undermined by one or other of the numerous errors which have troubled the church of God. But of all the parts of our holy religion none has been opposed under more plausible pretences, or with more uniform and unabated malignity, than the doctrine of justification by faith in Jesus Christ without the works of the law. This opposition was as early as the murderous envy of Cain. The apostle tells us, that by faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain. Abel's faith, no doubt, respected the promise which had been given to our first parents concerning salvation by the seed of the woman. Hence it appears that Cain, whose offering was rejected for his want of that faith, was an enemy to the doctrine
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 righteousness, 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. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith; but, as it were, by the works of the law: for they stumbled at that stumbling stone. They being ignorant of God's righte ousness, and going about to establish their own righteous. ness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God* The New Testament church, as soon as it was erected, began to be troubled with legal doctrine. To set forth the danger of that leaven is the principal design 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 interest in it; but to be received as the free gift of divine grace through faith. Hence it is called the righteousness 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 of the fifth century, when Pelagius rose. He openly denied the doctrine of the victorious work of the Holy Spirit in effectual calling; with which doctrine that of
* Deut. ix. 5. Rom. ix. 30, 31, 32. x. S.
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 and 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 Waldenses, Wickliffe, Hus. But in the sixteenth century, the scripture-doctrine of justification through the righ teousness 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 the 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