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of death and damnation, he giveth us life and salvation.
In order, therefore, to imitate the mercy of our heavenly Father, we must bestow our alms upon such as are necessitated, and show kindness to all mankind indiscriminately, whether they be friends or enemies: for if we give only to the great and wealthy, thinking to receive from them again, this is not charity ; but rather a clandestine manner of lending for the sake of profit: and if we love only our friends, we act from motives entirely selfish. Of this sort of charity and love, Christ speaketh in the chapter from which our text is taken, verses 32, 33, and 34 ; “For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if
ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners do also even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again."
Take heed, therefore, what distinctions ye make in your deeds of love and charity ; for if ye act from pure love to God, ye will make no difference between friends and enemies; but if ye show partiality to your friends, of whom ye expect a recompense, ye act from impure and selfish motives. Christ saith, Luke vi. 35. “But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest ; for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.”
The passage just quoted, as also some parts of the text under consideration, such as, “judge not, and ye shall not be judged ; condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned; forgive, and ye shall be forgiven,” may appear to some to contain a doctrine at variance with what we have before taught. These passages seem to indicate that we must se
cure the mercy and pardon of God by our works, notwithstanding you have frequently been told that we are saved by faith alone. But let it be understood, that good works are only the fruits of faith, whereby it is set forth and manifested to the world; for if I have faith, I shall be merciful, I shall not judge nor condemn, but shall forgive my neighbour, and be kind to him.
Of the office of works, we have an illustration in Genesis, chap. xx. When Abraham was commanded to offer
his son Isaac, he obeyed the command of the Lord, and drew forth his sword to slay him : whereupon the angel of the Lord stayed him, saying unto him, “ Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him : for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from me.” Thus Abraham manifested his faith by the work of obedience which he performed in not withholding his darling child when he was required of him.
Our works do not produce faith, but faith produces good works. We do not lay the foundation ; neither do we give before we receive. The sheep do not seek the shepherd, but the shepherd seeketh the sheep. God also findeth us before we seek him, and answereth us before we call upon him; as he declareth, Isaiah lxv. 1. “I am sought of them that asked not for me; I am found of them that sought me not.”
And also in the end of the same chapter he saith, “ And it shall come to pass, that before they call I will answer; and while they are yet speaking I will hear.” St. Paul likewise saith, Romans iv. “ Now to him that worketh, is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” And again, in the eleventh chapter : “ There is a remnant according to the election of grace; and if by
grace, then is it no more of works, otherwise grace is no more grace." We should therefore do good works without requiring any thing for them; for we receive every thing from God without merit or desert.
Our works may also serve as a testimony to ourselves, whereby we may know if our faith is sincere; for if I am assured that my works proceed from love, and that my heart is inclined to mercy and forgiveness toward my neighbour, it is a testimony that my faith is of the right kind, and that God has pardoned my sins. And such testimony should every man possess ; for though I have a strong and well grounded faith, if I am ignorant of it, it profiteth me no more than a chest of gold buried in the earth, which I knew not of till some one discovereth it to me, who would then do me as great a favour as if he had made me a present thereof. God knew, indeed, that Abraham had faith, but it was necessary that Abraham should also know it, and that he should manifest his faith ; which things were accomplished by the readiness with which he obeyed the command of the Lord.
Thus we see, that although we are to be saved by faith, yet good works are necessary, as an evidence and confirmation of it: as Peter also signifieth in his second epistle, chap. i. After exhorting his brethren to add to their faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, and brotherly love, he concludes with these words: “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure : for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall; for so an inheritance shall be ministered unto you abundantly, into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ." Christ hath also said that he will require works in the last day, and will say to the condemned, “I was a hungered, and ye gave me no meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink; I
was a stranger, and ye took me not in ;" &e. (Mat. xxv.)
Now, ignorant and bigoted men have inferred from these and similar texts, that we must be saved by our works ; than which, no doctrine is more contrary to the whole tenour of scripture. These passages do indeed enforce the necessity of good works, but they by no means encourage us to rely upon: them for justification. It must be remembered that we are composed of two principles ; the spirit and the flesh; and as these two principles are essentially different from each other, some texts are adapted only to the former, teaching us how we must live in the spirit, and deal with God by faith alone ; other passages teach us only how we should live in the flesh, and regulate our outward conduct in the world ; of which sort are the texts above quoted.
If it be asked, why we should be perplexed in reading the word of God, with passages that appear contradictory to each other, as those we have mentioned may seem to some? I answer, that they only appear so on slight examination ; which is an advantage rather than a hinderance; as it will lead men to reflect and examine more attentively, and likewise prevent them from imagining that they are perfectly acquainted with the scriptures, while as yet they are almost wholly ignorant of their true import. Ye should therefore endeavour to become well acquainted with the language of scripture, that ye may not apply to the spirit, that which is spoken only of the flesh; and thus confound the office of faith with that of works : for works are only commendable when they benefit our neighbours, and are the fruits and evidence of faith ; but we must by no means rely upon them for justification.
I have made this digression in order to show the proper
office of works, lest I should seem to confirm the doctrine of the papists, who think they shall be
saved thereby. We will now resume the subject of the text.
We have already briefly considered the words, Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful; and on this part of the text little more need be said at present, as Christ himself hath given the interpretation thereof in the words which follow : to which I shall now direct your attention.
Judge not, and ye shall not be judged : condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned : forgive, and ye shall be forgiven : give, and it shall be given you. Here the Lord maketh three divisions of mercy, in order that we may know what kind of mercy we are required to exercise toward our neighbour. In the first place, we are forbidden to judge or condemn ; secondly, we are commanded to forgive our neighbour if he hath committed aught against us : and lastly, it is enjoined upon us to assist the needy. If we carefully observe, we shall discover that the word mercy, wherever it is found in the scripture, includeth these three offices; all of which should proceed from a sincere heart, without ostentation, hypocrisy, or respect of persons.
At present, we will attend to the first of these divisions of mercy : viz. that which forbiddeth us to judge or condemn. Christ hath no reference here to the judging of public crimes, for this belongs to the civil magistrate, who is appointed for that purpose, and is amenable to God, and to the laws of his country, if he judge unjustly. All judgements of this kind pertaineth not to the kingdom of Christ, but to earthly government; for God hath left the worldly affairs of men to be decided by. worldly judges : as is evinced by his answer to him who desired that he would command his brother to divide the inheritance with him : “ Man, who made me a judge, or a divider over you.” Luke xii. 14.
But that which Christ hath forbidden in the text,