صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

To fay that faith, by which we understand a firm belief in CHRIST, as the whole and fole cause of falvation, will fecure to man the poffeffion of all thofe graces and virtues neceffary to adorn his Chriftian profeffion, is, in other words, to fay, that when the foundation is well laid, it will of itself raise the fuperftructure; or, to make use of another fcripture allufion, where the root of the tree is planted in CHRIST, Christian fruit will be the confequent produce of the branches. But in this cafe facts are, alas! often against us.

1

"No corrupt tree bringeth forth good fruit.' Man, in his present state, is that corrupt tree of nature, from which no fpiritual fruit is to be expected. But it does not from hence follow, that when this corrupt tree is moved into God's nursery, if we may be allowed the expreffion, and has its root planted in Chriftian foil, that it will of course bring forth good fruit; for this must depend upon circumstances, neceffary to be taken into the account. The fituation of a tree may be improved, without any material change being produced in its actual condition. It is not fufficient, therefore, that this tree of nature (to carry on our allufion) be moved out of a barren and unfruitful foil; it must moreover be regularly pruned

and trained, and the wild and luxuriant branches muft be carefully and conftantly cut back, that proper nourishment may be carried to the bearing wood; fhould not this procefs be regularly pursued, in fpite of the foil in which the root ftands, no fruit will be brought to perfection.

Similar to this is the conclufion which our SAVIOUR has led us to draw upon this fubject, where he reprefents himself under the emblem of the vine, and his Father under that of the hufbandman. "Every branch in me," fays CHRIST," that beareth not fruit, the hufbandman taketh away.". By which we understand, that being in CHRIST, i. e. having faith in CHRIST as a SAVIOUR, and bearing Chriftian fruit, do not always mean the fame thing. Care, confequently, fhould be taken, that thefe two different meanings be not confounded. Faith in CHRIST is allowed to be, if we may fo fay, the grand germinating principle of the whole fpiritual creation. "The branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine." But though the branch does abide in the vine, fhould no fap from the root be conveyed into it, it will ftill be unfruitful.

In this particular addrefs, therefore, to his Apostles, Our SAVIOUR may be understood as telling his dif

"

ciples at large, that they must not only abide in him, but that his spirit must alfo abide in them, if they would become what Chriftianity was defigned to make them, “purified perfons, zealous of good works." Without the spirit of CHRIST, it is certain, we are none of his. The fhadow, in this cafe, will not be taken for the fubftance. As members of his church, we may, in fome fenfe, be faid to be in CHRIST; but being dead, not living members of it, we are those unfruitful branches of the vine, which the hufbandman taketh away.

It is readily allowed, that many of thofe fpiritual perfons, who occafionally feparate from the church, fee the fubject in the light in which it is here placed; although the gratitude which they feel towards that SAVIOUR, Who has wrought the great work of falvation, accompanied with a defire to guard against any felf-fufficient claims on the part of man, upon the ground of his own performances, induces them at times to give that partial account of the Gofpel plan of falvation, which experience has proved to be unfavourable to the promotion of its general purpose. I fay, partial account of the Gofpel plan of favation; because the whole truth, as it is in JESUS CHRIST, is not fairly brought forward.

Z

*

When fpeaking, for inftance, of the fundamentals of Christianity, they often neglect to pay due regard to those other parts which are neceffary to the perfection of the Chriftian scheme. They defcribe Christianity, as "a fcheme for justifying the ungodly;" "for reconciling us to GOD when enemies;" "and the fruits of holinefs as the effects, not the cause of our juftification;" as "a scheme which opens the door of mercy to the greatest and vileft of penitent finners." In one fenfe, all this is certainly true; and God forbid that the clergy of the church fhould preach other doctrine; that they fhould not bear their most decided teftimony against all pretenfions to falvation, upon the ground of human merit;

* Provided Chriftians are disposed to understand one another; this fubject, it is prefumed, need not to furnish occafion for dispute: because it will probably be found, that the fame thing is meant, although the mode of expreffion may be different. The "fruits of holinefs" are both the effects and the caufeof juftification, though in different fenfes. They are the effects of our juftification in baptism; by which facrament the grace of the Holy Spirit, "from whom all holy defires, allgood counfels, and all juft works, do proceed," was originally conferred on the party; whilft, in another fenfe, the fruits of holiness are, not in the strict sense of the word, the caufe, but the condition, or as Bishop BULL's term is, the "causa fine qua non," that without which our final juftification at the day of judgment will not take place: for "without holiness no man fhall fee the LORD."

+ WILBERFORCE's Practical View, p. 121, 122.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

"

for fallen man can have no claim upon his Creator but by virtue of an act of grace that has been paffed in his favour. But this act, it is to be observed, contains in it certain conditions; the performance of which, though not to be confidered as man's title to the benefits of the act in queftion, is nevertheless neceffary, according to the revelation of the Divine will, to fecure to him their poffeffion.*.

When, therefore, the Gospel covenant, of which this act of free grace on the part of CHRIST conftitutes the bafis, is kept out of fight; when performances and conditions on man's part are decried, upon the laudable, though mistaken, idea of preventing all encroachment upon the benefits of CHRIST's fatisfaction, as extended to us freely "without money and without price;" when the observance of the moral precepts of the Gospel, enforced by the awful confideration, that GOD" will judge every man according to his works," is defcribed as "vain wisdom, and falfe philofophy;"t and when the work and commandment brought forward to the attention of the Christian difciple, as it were in oppofition to this

*The reader will find this fubject handled at large in "Vindicia Ecclefiæ Anglicanæ," cap. vi.

+ WILBERFORCE's Practical View, p. 131,

« السابقةمتابعة »