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Faith and Works.

Faith and Works.

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Published by GLENN DALE PEASE
BY JOSEPH AGAR BEET
BY JOSEPH AGAR BEET

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Published by: GLENN DALE PEASE on Jul 29, 2013
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FAITH AND WORKS.
BY JOSEPH AGAR BEET
We have seen that each of the FourGospels represents Christ as teaching, plainly andconspicuously and frequently, that God frowns on allsin and smiles only on THOSE WHO OBEY His commands ; and that this teaching was re-echoed, withequal plainness and emphasis and frequency, by Paul.On the other hand, we have seen that both Christ andPaul taught, in plainest and most emphatic language,that God receives into His favour as heirs of eternalblessedness ALL those WHO BELIEVE the good newsannounced by Christ. The apparent contradictioninvolved in these statements demands now our bestattention.The emphatic and repeated teaching of the variouswriters of the New Testament forbids us to accept ar/ satisfactory any solution which does not maintain eachstatement in its full force. Moreover, the former statement is demanded by the supreme majesty of theMoral Law which will tolerate no infringement of itsrights. On the other hand, nothing less than the fullpardon involved in the latter statement will supply the" 91 30 J USTIFICA TION THR UGH FA ITH. [PART 1 1.deep need of guilty and helpless humanity. For theharmony underlying the claims of justice and the wordof mercy, we now seek.The harmony will be found in the object-matter of saving faith, i.e. in the nature of the good news which,as a condition of His favour, God requires us to believe.This object-matter of faith is, as we have already seen,not a mere statement about God but an announcementof what God will do for those who believe. In otherwords, saving faith is a belief, not of a doctrine, but of a wonderful promise. In this truth we shall find thesolution we require.The moral teaching of Christ compels us to believethat God smiles only on those who obey His commands.This being so, it is psychologically impossible for usto believe that God receives us into His favour untilwe are ready to FORSAKE SIN ; or to believe that Godsmiles upon us while we are content to continue in sin.For, manifestly, no one can be saved against his will.In other words, the Law which says, with an authoritywe cannot question, " the soul which sins will die,"makes saving faith impossible except to those who arewilling to give up sin. Moreover, a sad experience hasrevealed to us our utter inability to render the obediencewhich God requires. Consequently the promise thatGod will receive into His favour all who believethe Gospel involves a promise that He will work inthem the obedience He requires. And justifying faithbecomes an assurance not only that God now receivesinto His favour us who believe the good news of salvationLECT. XIV.] FAITH AND WORKS. 131
 
but also that from the moment we believe He willGIVE US POWER TO CONQUER SIN. It is also evidentthat we cannot continue to exercise saving faith unlesswe actually turn from sin. For we cannot believe thatGod smiles on us while we do that on which Hefrowns.In another volume I hope to show that Christ claimsthe active and unreserved devotion of all whom Herescues from the penalty of their past sins. To thosewho know this, belief of the good news announced byChrist involves readiness to yield to Him the homageHe demands. This homage involves abandonment of all sin.We now see that the moral teaching of Christ, reechoed by the law written on the hearts of all men,guards from perversion the Gospel of Christ, by makingfaith, which is a condition of salvation, impossible exceptto those who purpose to forsake sin, and abiding faithimpossible except to those who actually conquer sin.In other words the moral law compels those who lovesin to disbelieve the promise of God, and thus keepsthem outside the number of those for whom the Gospelannounces salvation. It closes every gate to forgivenessexcept that which leads away from all sin.In Lect. XI. we have seen that the fundamentalGospel of Paul is expressed in the phrase, " a man is justified by faith apart from works of law." SoRom. iii. 28, 30, Gal. ii. 16 twice. On the other hand,in Rom. ii. 13 he writes, "not the hearers of law arerighteous with God ; but the doers of law will be132 JUSTIFICATION THROUGH FAITH. [PART II. justified." In close harmony with this hst passage, weread in Matt xii. 37, after a reference to the day of  judgment, "by thy words thou wilt be justified andby thy words thou wilt be condemned." Similarly,James ii. 21: "was not Abraham justified by workswhen he offered Isaac his son upon the altar ? " Wehave here a present and preliminary justification throughfaith and a final justification by works.These TWO JUSTIFICATIONS are in complete harmony,and are closely connected. The present justification byfaith would be worthless were it not a genuine anticipation of the final award of the great Judge. And thisfinal approbation is conditional (cp. Rom. ii. 7) uponcontinuance in good works. Moreover, as I hope toshow in another volume, through faith we obtain notonly the present favour of God but also power to walk in the path of obedience. In other words, the two justifications represent the two lines of teaching nowbefore us.In the New Testament these two lines of teaching,the safeguard and the doctrine to be guarded, are mostclosely interwoven, especially by Paul. After stating,in Rom. i. 16, 17, his fundamental doctrine of righteousness through faith, he adds in ch. ii. 2-13 the moralsafeguard just noted, before he proceeds to expoundat full, in ch. iii. 21 iv. 25, his central doctrine.Similarly, after asserting and defending the samedoctrine in Gal. ii. 16 v. 12, he adds in ch. v. 13vi. 10 an assertion of inevitable and exact moral retribution. And the conspicuously evangelical teaching of 
 
LECT. XIV.] FAITH AND WORKS. 133the Fourth Gospel receives its moral counterpart, notonly in the conspicuous moral teaching of the FirstGospel, but in the plain and strong teaching of I Johnii. 29 iii. 10.Already, in Lect. X., we have seen that both Christand Paul assume that all men have sinned and arenow, unless saved by Christ, treading a path of sin.And we have now inferred from God s anger againstsin that none enjoy His favour except those who turnfrom sin and serve God. This turning from sin toserve God is in the R.V. of Ps. li. 13, Acts xv. 3,James v. 19, 20 described as CONVERSION or being-converted. And the words so rendered are frequentlyused as a condition of salvation. So Isa. Iv. 7 : " Letthe wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous manhis thoughts ; and let him .return to the Lord, and Hewill have mercy upon him, and to our God, for Hewill abundantly pardon." And Jer. iii. 12, 22, iv. I,xviii. n, xxiv. 7, xxxv. 15, xxxvi. 3, 7, and elsewherefrequently. Also Matt. xiii. 15, "lest they should turn-again and I should heal them;" Acts iii. 19, ix. 35,xi. 21, xiv. 15, xv. 19, xxvi. 18, 20, where we have thephrases, repent and turn-again, turn from these vainthings to God, turn them from darkness to light. SoI Thess. i. 9, " how ye turned to God from idols, toserve a living and true God ;" also i Peter ii. 25. InGal. iv. 9 we have a retrograde turning to the weak and poor elements of the world.Closely connected with the word rendered turn-againor convert, and with forgiveness of sins, we find in134 JUSTIFICATION THROUGH FAITH. [PART II.Acts iii. 19, xxvi. 20, and in Mark i. 4, Luke ill. 3,xxiv. 47, Acts v. 31 a Greek word always renderedREPENT. It is connected with faith in Mark i. 15," repent and believe in the Gospel," and in Acts xx. 2 1 ;and is conspicuously a condition of salvation in Lukexiii. 3, 5, " except ye repent, ye shall all in like mannerperish." This word now demands attention.According to its form, the Greek word so rendereddenotes an afterthought or change of mind ; and inthis sense it is occasionally used in classical Greek, andby the Lxx. So in i Sam. xv. 29 in reference to God," He will not turn nor repent, because He is not a manthat He should repent ; " and in Jer. iv. 28, " I havespoken and I will not repent, I have sworn and I willnot turn away from it." On the other hand we read inJer. xviii. 8, " If that nation concerning which I havespoken turn from their evil, I will repent of the evilwhich I thought to do to them : " so v. 10, "I will repentof the good wherewith I said that I would benefitthem." Almost the same words in Jonah iii. 10, iv. 2 :cp. Joel ii. 13, 14. The apparent contradiction is easilyexplained. Since all God s purposes are good, Hecannot change them. Change of purpose is human,not divine. But in order to assert, in strongest possiblelanguage, that God s treatment of men is conditionedby their own action, Jeremiah represents God as sayingthat if men will turn from sin He will turn from Hispurpose to punish them.The same word denotes in Wisdom xi. 24, xii. 10, 19,Sirach xliv. 16 a moral change of mind. And in this

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