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their duty in combating what they held to be erroneous, have been pleased, we trust, to withdraw from conflict; content to await the issue, “whether” of the twain “ God will prosper, whether this or that.” Readers have been wearied of controversy, and have been glad to turn back into greener and more wholesome pastures; so that, although there is much in the disunion still existing, to humble ourselves, much in the condition and prospects of our Church to mingle sorrow and humiliation with joy, yet is there ground, in the restored prospect of peace, to acknowledge the good hand of our God here, as elsewhere, dealing mercifully with our Church, and aiding her within, while He suffers the storms from without to beat upon her, and attest, by her increased stedfastness amid their assaults, that she is indeed founded upon The Rock.
While, however, many subjects of suspicion have been abated or removed, the misgivings felt have perhaps concentrated themselves, the rather, in some minds upon a single point, and that the more on account of the difficulties which beset it, the doctrine of justification. With some writers, indeed, (such is the inherent tendency to forget, in the struggle, the character of the things contended for) it seems to be chiefly looked upon as the strong-hold in the system whose scripturalness they contend for: they seem to think that the apparent sense of the Articles and Homilies on this point is with them, as they admit the apparent meaning of the Liturgy to be with those who hold baptismal regeneration. They seem accordingly to adopt it, as the most favourable battlefield in behalf of a system, of whose truth and importance they are persuaded. But others there are, , of a less controversial and more practical spirit, who may naturally be unsettled by doctrines and views inconsistent with the theory of justification which has of late been popular; such as baptismal regeneration, an universal judgment, the necessity of continual repentance, or that real holiness is to be sought for in this life. Taught to think that a clear view of the doctrine of justification is essential to being justified, they will naturally be the more alarmed at any doubt thrown over what they had been taught; and while some seem to fear for others, these may not unnaturally be anxious for themselves, lest they should be robbed of a doctrine which has been the stay of their conscience, and their hope and perce.
On both accounts, it may not be amiss then to take this opportunity of assisting (if it may be) to remove the misgivings thus raised, in the hope of tending to restore peace to the Church or to individuals. And as the elaborate work, in connection with or in the words of which the statements of this Letter were originally made', was written at the suggestion of another, with the very object of removing these perplexities, it seems the more appropriate to connect what suggests itself, with its thoughtfulness.
The misgivings are not, indeed, connected with any
particular language, or theory, or statements of doctrine; they are inherent in the subject itself, and the relation of faith to works in our final acceptance. All, indeed, are agreed on the one side, that the only intrinsically meritorious cause of our salvation is the atoning death of our redeeming LORD, embraced by faith; all but the extreme Antinomian, that good works are essential to salvation; all, that every thing we are and have, our justification and sanctification, are the free gifts of God, not for our worthiness, but effacing our unworthiness; all, that justification and sanctification are inseparable in act, that none can be justified without being sanctified, nor remain in a state of justification any longer than he continues to be sanctified; all, that the sanctification even of God's great saints continues to be imperfect in this life, and that they have, even to the end, need of the prayer which the Lord taught us, “ Forgive us our trespasses,” as well for their actual and present daily short-comings and infirmities, as for their past offences; ---and so, that, superadded to sanctification, purifying us within, there is need of continual remission, cleansing us from without; that, while God sanctifies the living members of His Son, and makes them more and more righteous, He also, by remitting sin, for CHRIST's sake, accounts them righteous, in so far as they are not so ;-all, that the best are but “unprofitable servants;" all, that even God's best servants have need of His merciful judgment; all, that He will bestow a different crown upon each in proportion to their faithfulness; all, that this crown is His gift, (grace rewarding, upon grace sanctifying,) not their desert; all, that although sanctification be necessary for our ultimate acceptance, yet to the end we may and must look, over and above, to GOD's mercy in CHRIST; that our hope of salvation rests not upon our sanctification, without an accompanying act of God's mercy, forgiving our trespasses.
It would seem, then, that persons who indeed realize the majesty of God's holiness, the manifoldness of their own infirmities, the awful sacredness of His law, and the sinfulness of transgression, are agreed in the simple statements of the truth. Persons differ as to the formulæ which they adopt, to combine these truths, more than as to the truths which they receive; often, more than even as to the relative importance in which they practically estimate those truths, or the degree of depth with which they hold them. It may be, indeed, that individuals holding but imperfect views, choose the one or the other formula, as more expressing that side of the truth which they chiefly, or almost exclusively, hold; that, e. g. “good works are a condition of salvation,” may have been a favourite formula with persons who had in a degree rationalized Christianity, and held indistinctly its leading doctrines; or “justification by faith only” may be urged by many, who have inadequate notions of the necessity of sanctification, or its degree, or the zealousness, diligence, self-discipline, watchfulness, necessary to “ maintain good works.” It is also plain, that the exclusive or paramount use of the one or the other formula will have the
tendency to narrow persons' perception of the truth, and cast their minds into a contracted mould ; and we ought to bear in mind not only the abstract soundness of our statement, but its tendency; not only whether it may be justified, but the impression which it would popularly produce.
Still it has been admitted by moderate theologians, even of the reformed school, that the sounder writers in the Church of Rome itself, mean substantially the same as themselves ', even while they use expressions which more readily bear another meaning; and no one can have read the account of the death-beds of pious Romanists, without perceiving that they put their trust and hope, not in the works which by God's grace they had performed, but in His mercy in CHRIST, blotting out their sins, pardoning their imperfections, accepting them in Him.
Truth, then, as well as charity, require us to be very careful how we cast suspicion on others in this point, in which the Church Catholic has not authoritatively pronounced, lest we be found false witnesses against our brethren. Formulæ, also, which are very valuable for opposing particular error, may not be sufficient for inculcating the whole truth; they may express
upon one side only, they may require to be filled up by other teaching. Since God, by His Apostle St. James, gave us the way of speaking, “we are justified by works, and not by faith only ?, to correct the impression which we might derive from
Le Blanc, Theses Theol. de just. inhær. ; see also Mr. Newman, Justif. p. 413.
2 James ii. 24.