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"We have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. *
“ But you will say, Are good works of no use, then? Of none in justifying you before God; but after you are justified by faith, they are indispensable: as Christ says, "The tree is known by his fruit.' Unless, therefore, your tree yield fruit, that is, good works, you may rest assured that your tree is unsound; that is, that
your faith is not genuine, and will not save you. If you have true faith, good works will be your enjoyment, and you will daily grow in holiness, and in fitness for the enjoyment of God's presence.
“What a blessed and easy salvation is this ! I trust, my dear old friend, that if
you dependence on yourself, you will cast it off, and be constantly praying that the Holy Spirit will enable you to have genuine saving faith in Christ. Never cease or despair, for Christ says, *Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.'I
“Now I must say farewell, with a prayer that this letter may be blessed to you. I write in a
I state of great debility, and my only reason for writing to you is, that you may have all the
of Matt. xii. 33. Matt. vii. 7.
* Gal. ii. 16.
enjoyments which I experience from faith in Christ, and the assurance that through God's great mercy I am one of his adopted children. May God bless you.
* Always your affectionate Nephew."
How desirable is it that, on the brink of eternity, you should ascertain whether you are prepared to meet your God! If your house is built upon the treacherous and shifting sand, it is surely better to discover its insecurity now, than to wait till the storm arises which will sweep it away; if your expectation of everlasting bliss be delusive and temporary, it is surely better to let it go, than to cling to it and perish.
You hope perhaps to reach heaven; what is the ground of your confidence ? Are you resting on yourself or on Christ? It is probable, nay almost certain, that you will reply, “ On Christ, for, as a matter of course, people in general profess to depend upon his merits; but all the time the real foundation of your hope may be your own good desires, your good works, and your good feelings. Examine yourself, whether you are indeed in the faith. It is easy to be deceived upon this point. It is easy to fancy that we are right, and yet to be entirely wrong.
Selfrighteousness is so natural to us, that it is not
without the greatest difficulty we are led to renounce it, and to trust simply in the righteousness of another. For to do this implies that we have nothing of our own which we can urge as a plea for our acceptance in God's sight; nothing which can extenuate our past guilt, or give us the slightest claim upon his favour; and it is very humbling to us to make such an acknowledgment. We are willing to admit that we have done much that was wrong; that we have not been so good as we ought to have been; that we are imperfect and erring creatures, and need to have our deficiencies supplied by the atonement of Christ; but we are very unwilling to own that our whole life has been in direct opposition to the will of our Maker; that our best actions have been imperfect or mixed with evil, and that we are justly exposed to his condemnation and disregard. But unless we feel our true characters as sinners
-sinners unable to make any satisfaction for the past-how can we appreciate and receive the work and death of Christ? How can we throw ourselves as lost and undone upon the merciful provision which he has made for mankind, when we secretly do not believe that we are in ourselves utterly undeserving of our Maker's forbearance, and utterly unable to bring forward, apart from the atonement, one reason why we should be saved ?
Search, then, and see what is the ground of your confidence before God. A mistake here is ruinous—is fatal. Look back upon your life: how does it appear to you? You cannot deny, however vague may be your idea of sin, that you have in innumerable instances disobeyed the commands of God. Now he has solemnly affirmed, “ Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them."* How will you remove his displeasure ? By your repentance ? But what is that worth? You will be sorry for your sins because you find that they are likely to injure your eternal happiness; you will repent, because by so doing you hope you shall be saved and reach heaven: are such purely selfish motives any inducement for God to forgive you? Besides, allowing that your repentance is sincere and thorough, can repentance atone for sin ? can it satisfy the claims of justice? Does the sorrow of the criminal withhold the execution of the sentence of the law? And can your feeble regrets over the past set aside the penalty which God has attached to every transgression—"The soul that sinneth, it shall die”?It is impossible; do not delude yourself with a false hope. God cannot overlook or suspend the solemn sanctions which he has given to his laws.
But you are perhaps disposed to turn from your sins to your virtues, and to urge them in your own behalf. You think there is much that is commendable in your personal history. You have been amiable and kind and charitable; you have read your Bible, you have prayed, you have gone to church; and God will surely not forget the fairer side of your character; surely he will set your good-doing against your wrong-doing, and then draw the balance in your favour; or at all events release you from any further claim ? Ah, how ignorant are you of the nature and extent of the holiness which God requires of his creatures! Your best and brightest deeds are defiled in his sight. They were not done from love to him, and are therefore devoid of all real worth. With reference to your fellow-creatures, your conduct may have been lovely and praiseworthy; but God seeth not as man seeth; he looks at the heart: and if he perceives that "self” has been the centre-point of its motives and desires; or that his glory, instead of being the first and principal object which influenced your daily life, has had no place in your consideration and esteem, how little of value, nay rather how much to condemn, must his unerring judgment find in your fairest performances ! « The God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all