Stacks Image 905


PART I. SOME OF THE PHILOSOPHICAL AND SCRIPTURAL PRINCIPLES AND DOCTRINES OF FAITH.



CHAPTER EIGHTH.


OF FAITH IN CONNECTION WITH JUSTIFICATION.


Of justification. Men are justified by faith. No other way of justification. Justification by faith implies the feeling of self-renunciation. Not possible to be otherwise. Self-renunciation involved also in sanctifying exercises.

FAITH is a principle, as intimated in the close of the last chapter, which does not stand alone. It always has an object; and always has results. In connection, therefore, with our general doctrine, that faith is the source of feeling both natural and religious, and that it is the great foundation of the religious life, we proceed to say further, that one of the remarkable results of faith, considered as the means of spiritual restoration and renovation, is, that it frees us from that condemnation, which is brought upon us by reason of sin. In other words, we are JUSTIFIED by faith.

2.—Believing themselves to be sinners, believing Jesus Christ to be the propitiation for sins, and accepting salvation through his merits alone, men are forgiven, and are treated, in reference to the law of God, as if they had not sinned against it. In other words, they are justified. The creature, who has violated the divine law, is the subject of justification; God, in connection with the administration of his government and the arrangement of his providences, is the author of it; but still, being justified in the manner which has been mentioned, viz.: by trusting in Christ alone, men are properly said to be justified by faith.

3.—Nor is there any other way of its being done. Justification, in the scripture sense of the term, always implies forgiveness or pardon. Forgiveness or pardon, as the terms themselves imply, is a free gift. At the same time, such are the relations existing among moral beings, that such forgiveness cannot, in the spiritual sense, be made available to the subject or recipient of it without confidence or faith existing on the part of such subject towards the author. A pardon, which is spiritually available, one which is desirable and valuable in the spiritual or religious sense, is a pardon, which results in entire reconciliation between the parties. But it is self-evident, if we could suppose forgiveness or pardon to exist without faith or confidence on the part of the subject of it, (for instance, without faith in the kind intentions of the being offering the pardon and without faith in his power of making it good,) that it would fail to result in mutual reconciliation, in the reciprocation of benevolent feelings, and in true happiness. On a favorable construction of it, it would be merely forgiveness intentional and inchoate; existing exclusively in the mind of the author; without counterpart, and without completion. From the nature of the case, therefore, a man cannot be pardoned or forgiven, to any available spiritual purpose, without faith; and consequently he cannot be justified without faith.

4.—But justification by faith involves one important mental element, which has sometimes been overlooked. We cannot better describe it, than by calling it the feeling of self-renunciation. A willingness to acknowledge our nakedness, blindness, and want; and to receive, with the helplessness of little children, whatever may be necessary for us from another. This feeling of self-renunciation is involved in the act of faith; or more properly and truly, it is antecedent and prerequisite to it. In other words, we must cease to believe in ourselves as a ground of hope, we must cease to believe in our own merits and our own strength as a source of salvation, before it is possible for us to believe, in a scriptural manner, in Christ as a source of salvation and as a ground of hope.

5.—The feeling of personal renunciation is a mental element in the process of justification, which, as we have already intimated, has sometimes been overlooked. But we cannot hesitate in saying, that it is an element, which cannot be dispensed with, consistently with realizing the great spiritual result, which the term justification expresses. It is of the nature of a contradiction in terms, to say that a man can be justified by faith, and at the same time be justified by any way or method besides faith. Justification by faith negatives and denies, in the necessary import of the expressions themselves, any and every other method of justification. When we are justified by faith, we not only have faith in Christ, as the propitiation for sins in general; but, appropriating this propitiation to our own necessities, we believe in him as a Savior from our own sins. But it is obvious, that, if we believe in Christ as our Savior, we do not believe in ourselves as our Savior, nor in our own efforts as our Savior, nor in any system of human effort and instrumentality, nor in any saving efficacy whatever out of him. That is to say, it is obviously implied in the very act of faith, that we renounce ourselves; that we feel, in respect to our salvation, that in ourselves we are nothing.

6.—And this feeling of self-renunciation, as we shall have occasion to notice more particularly in the succeeding chapter, which is antecedent to the faith that justifies, is also antecedent and prerequisite to the faith which sanctifies; and perhaps we may add, is prerequisite to every gracious exercise, which is involved in sanctification. The truly holy soul, that has renounced the falsity and the bitterness of self-reliance, understands this. Such a soul feels itself to be, because it is so in fact, under the inspiration and movement of a power out of itself and above itself; although it may be said, at the same time, to be a power dwelling within it. In the spirit and in the language of a devout person, who had known what it was to renounce self in order to receive God, it would rather be lost than be saved, would rather be cast out than received into favor, by any means which would exclude the divine operation, and which would
not give God all the glory.