Interestingly, the answer to this question is often presented as an absolute yes or an absolute no. If you answered with an absolute no then congratulations for being an antinomian (google it, somewhat to my own surprise I spelt this right first attempt), you're also wrong. And if you answered with an absolute yes then you're probably a Catholic or legalist and likewise wrong. The answer to the question is probably best summed up as a qualified yes (or even a qualified no but I think I prefer the emphasis on the doing of good). It requires a nuanced understanding of salvation and if you're wondering what on earth I'm going on about, please stay with me, at least until I've gone through the arguments.
Of course, one of the cornerstone principles of the Christian faith is salvation through faith alone. Happily, I'm not denying this. But salvation is much broader than we often conceive it to be. Let's spilt salvation into its parts then, sorry if you are put off with the '-ations' but it's good to learn the theological terms involved.
This entire blog post is copied word for word from Justin Taylor's blog. The structure is Mr Taylor's work and the actual poem Mr Hart's work. Very obviously then - this work is not my own. It is worth copying as it is both greatly encouraging and a wonderful depiction of preaching the gospel to yourself day after day. The author gets the Christian life and the continual contrast between the beauty of Christ and the ugliness of our own lives.
The words to “The Grieved Soul,” by Joseph Hart (1712-1768):
1. Come, my soul and let us try
For a little season,
Ev’ry burden to lay by;
Come and let us reason.
What is this that casts you down?
Who are those that grieve you?
Speak and let the worst be known;
Speaking may relieve thee.
2. O, I sink beneath the load
Of my nature’s evil!
Full of enmity to God;
Captived by the devil!
Restless as the troubled seas,
Feeble, faint and fearful;
Plagued with ev’ry sore disease,
How can I be cheerful?
It seems an unprofitable activity, to review one of the worst books I’ve read, but actually the very reason why the book in question was bad is also, at the same time, a healthy challenge. I should probably add that I don’t read a lot of biographies and autobiographies, while I’m sure there are some great ones out there then I’ve never really been particularly interested them. Perhaps it’s an extension of an inherent self-centeredness on my part : why read about someone else when my life is more interesting? Hopefully, that’s only a small part of it.
Anyway, I picked up Comfy Glasgow: An Expression of Thanks by George Mitchell because it had been resting unread on my bookshelf for a number of years (I think around five) and it looked like it could be an interesting account of a Christian living in a deprived area (I based this on the logic that all of Glasgow is more or less a deprived area). It also had a series of good reviews on the back including one by Derek Prime whose name I recognised and generally approved of.
As you may have guessed from the understated title; the book was somewhat of a disappointment. But let’s deal with the positives first: it’s well written and it’s very much about an ‘ordinary’ Christian, not someone who is a big deal, well known or had a Damascus Road conversion. Mr Mitchell lived your bog standard life, if it can be reduced so.
Therein, does not lie the problem. Just because his life was ordinary does not mean it could not have been interesting. In fact, I hoped this would make it better: seeing the trials and struggles of the average Christian. Regrettably, this wasn’t so. Mr Mitchell’s account of growing up is, as a review on the back says: “historically, culturally and socially excellent, doing justice to the great City of Glasgow.” But the issue in question is that the book is not spiritually excellent.