10/07/2007

Sermon Faith and works

James 2:18 Show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works
The connection between faith and works

This beautiful sarcasm gives a severe reproof to the presumptuous hope and carnal confidence of self-deceiving hypocrites; who profess to rely up on Christ as a Saviour, but obey him not as their king; who embrace the promises, but reject his commands, and sin that grace may abound. Come, as if the apostle had said, come thou formalist, who pretendest to Christian experience without a corresponding practice, I will pluck off thy mask and show thee thy true character. Be not like the man who beholdeth his natural face in a glass and goeth his way and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. Thou hast faith! Thou thinkest that thou hast it; and some kind of faith indeed thou hast. And I have works; not works without faith, but as the fruit of it. Show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works.
Here it may be observed, - that true faith is visible -that it is made so by its fruits - and that those therefore who pretend to faith while destitute of good works, are awfully deceived.

I. True faith is visible
II. True faith is made visible by its fruits
1. We may observe that though works are distinct from faith, so distinct that they are frequently opposed to it, yet they always accompany it as the proper fruit and effect of saving faith, like water from the fountain or light from the sun.
2. As good works are the concomitants, so also the touchstone of faith, and the rule by which we are to judge of its being genuine.
3. The truth of these propositions is confirmed by the examples which the apostle adduces - Abraham and Rahab.
III. Those who pretend to faith and yet are destitute of good works are awfully deceived.

(1.) It is as impious to deny the utility and necessity of good works as it is to ascribe merit to them. They are the way to the kingdom, as one said, though not the cause of reigning. The life is the index of the heart. Leaves and blossoms will not evidence a Christian, but fruit will. Hearers of the word, and not doers of it only deceive themselves. Faith may be previous to good works, but cannot long exist without them. James 1:22
(2.) All works performed before faith, or while in a state of state of unbelief, are no better than dead works, and cannot be acceptable with God. Works do not give value to faith, but it is faith that makes works acceptable: it is the tree that makes the fruit good, and not the fruit that makes the tree good. Enoch was uniform and constant in his obedience, and walked with God; but it was by faith that he obtained this testimony that he pleased God. Let our affections be ever so warm and lively, and our conduct ever so consistent yet both the one and the other must be influenced by faith as the vital principle of all true religion. Faith in the promises, in the sacrifice and righteousness of’ our Saviour, is that only which brings us near to God, and renders our persons and services acceptable. Let it be our care to preserve that connexion between faith and holiness which the scriptures teach, and not put that asunder that which they have joined together, knowing that as works without faith are dead, so faith without works is dead also.

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