Billeder på siden

That we, in speaking upon this or any other subject connected with religion, should use different

that is loth to allow that its predecessors have ever been in error, or even expressed themselves obscurely? We must come to the point, or that will remain which may mar all our labours. In my mind, it were impossible for a people of ordinary sense, situated as we are now with the whole Scripture before us, honestly to fall into any mistake about faith and works. It is evident, however, from St. James's and St. Peter's epistles, that sundry expressions of St. Paul, whose works, be it remembered, were not then collected, had been mistaken, and from a general superstitious ignorance which had received a sort of sanction from this misconception, a dangerous heresy had sprung up, which St. James, as here quoted, writes to refute. St. Paul, in arguing against those who wished to make it appear that Christianity could only be received through Judaism, puts faith, using the word in a variety of senses, against works, not against the works of obedience, which he himself had been preaching to his converts, as the necessary and absolute conditions which that faith imposed, and which thereby necessarily became works of faith itself, but against reliance upon works of the Jewish law, which, ceremonial, as well as moral, it was contended, were necessary to the very acceptance of Christianity. From a degree of ignorance or wickedness which he did not anticipate, however, some of his hearers, or perhaps only some who had it at second hand from them, chose to understand his word "faith," as meaning simple assent, and his "works" as meaning the moral law; and imagined, that this worthless faith was to save them as by magic; an idea not dissimilar to that belief in charms, amulets, and talismans, which prevails in the East to this day. To check this, St. James argues upon utility, and the object of

terms from those which you would select, is most probable; but it does not, therefore, follow, that

the promise and revelation, and proves the absurdity of the error by shewing that the devil* had as good a faith of this, and that instead of being better for it, they became, like him, still more direct rebels. The polemics of Mr. Wilberforce's school know all this perfectly well, yet for the sake of their littera scripta, they will keep, as it were, coquetting with this heresy, first saying that which any ordinary man must suppose to favour this doctrine, then indignantly denying it; and when asked to explain, working round in a long rigmarole of special pleading upon the different senses of the word faith, so as to leave the matter just in the same degree of mystery as before; and all this for the mere sake of glozing over the notorious fact, that, to say the least of it, the fathers of their sect had from their adherence to epistolic obscurity, been misunderstood by a large portion of their followers. It so happens, that by "faith," the unlearned generally understand belief. Knowing this, to avoid the above error, we join with it obedience to what the doctrine of him to be believed in inculcates. We say, therefore, "faith and good works;" whereas, if faith were universally understood to include good works, we should of course, be unnecessarily prolix; we should be saying "belief and good works, and good works." It appears to me, from Mr. Wilberforce's explanation, that we inculcate the same thing in

* I have somewhere met with a partizan bolder than our author, who does not hesitate to dispute the matter with St. James, gravely arguing that the devil's was a perfectly good faith, and unavailable only, because it was not proposed to him as a means of salvation.

we really differ. One principal source of misunderstanding between yourself and Objector seems to

four words, which he would do in one. Is there a difference, or is there none? If none, why are we found fault with for speaking the same truth more plainly and intelligibly? For, be it remembered, this point is quite distinct from those fine-spun arguments about human merit, with which he would mix them up! It certainly would be quite fair to defend the writings of a favourite author, by pleading any sense consistent with the context, which the word faith will classically bear, and which are ample for the purpose; but why, in the face of Scripture and common sense, and I may add experience, it should be contended, that Christianity should be preached with this obscurity, in preference to a mode less liable to be mistaken, is to me inconceivable. I deny that St. James speaks of "pretended faith." This, none capable of thinking at all, could have thought available. His example the devil did not pretend, but was perfectly convinced. St. James argues against a superstitious error that had flown like wild-fire among the ignorant, that a promise of salvation had been held out to all who should acknowledge that the Messiah had appeared in the person of Jesus, without reference to that allegiance which was the object of the proclamation.

To enable the unlearned, without much trouble, to conceive how disputes upon the word faith have arisen, I have made the following extracts from the three dictionaries most in use. The word in our testament, translated faith, is pistis, derived from the Greek verb peithomai; the Latin for which, given by the Hederici Lexicon, is pareo, obedio, also credo. In Ainsworth's Dictionary the Latin verb pareo is derived from a Greek verb signifying "I am present." The senses given from Roman

be, as before, the not having previously sufficiently defined the subject of your argument. You, in consequence, are talking of justification in one sense, he in another; you of primary, he of ultimate justification. This once explained, your arguments are no longer irreconcilable. You say, we "consider not that Christianity is a scheme for justifying the ungodly," &c. but yet you make us acknowledge it to be a scheme for admitting those who could not otherwise be admitted: and

authors, are,-1st, To appear, or be seen.-2d, To be made out, or proved.-3d, To be manifest, or well understood.4th, To obey, be ruled, or governed by.-5th, To comply with, follow, or yield to.-6th, To perform, or fulfil. Obedio, senses given, are-1st, To obey, or give obedience to.-2d, To follow one's counsel or advice.-3d, To comply with. Credo is always

received, as "I believe." I believe." Pistis is the Greek word employed both by St. Paul and St. James; its received translation is the Latin word fides. The senses given by Ainsworth to fides, are-1st, Faith, truth, honesty, allegiance, loyalty.-2d, Trust, credit.-3d, Safeguard, assurance, warrant.-4th, Authority.— 5th, Defence, protection.-6th, Faithfulness, conscience.7th, Friendship, a solemn league or contract.—8th, 9th, Inapplicable.-10th, Word or promise.-11, Safe-keeping or custody.12th, Justice, uprightness.

Faith. Dr. Johnson's definitions are-1st, Belief of revealed truths.-2d, The system of revealed truths.—3d, Trust in God. -4th, Tenet held.-5th, Trust in the honour or veracity of another.-6th, Fidelity, unshaken adherence.-7th, 8th, Sincerity, honesty, veracity.-9th, Promise given.

what was the reason they were outside the door? was it not sin? However, your assertion is most decidedly and notoriously not true. Take any

number of men you like out of the mass of what you are pleased to call nominal Christians, question them as to how this part of the subject is understood by themselves, and to the best of their knowledge and belief, by other Christians generally, and nine out of ten, at the very least, will, in one form of words or another, tell you, it was a scheme for justifying the ungodly. The ideas which seem to be most generally entertained among the higher orders, I believe, and have generally found to be as follows; and I trust they are equally scriptural and equally rational with your own, whatever your own may be. We consider Christ as sent by God to proclaim an amnesty to his rebellious subjects; consequently," to reconcile us when enemies." For example-Suppose a factious and rebellious town to be under the interdict of its rightful sovereign, who, instead of destroying the rebels and razing their city, had had patience with them, leaving them merely to suffer the natural consequences of anarchy, and, even from time to time, sending amongst them men of confirmed loyalty and ability to remonstrate with them upon their wickedness and folly. Suppose, in spite of this forbearance and care, the city still to remain in a state of

« ForrigeFortsæt »