nothing less than an unfair and wilful perversion of his words, and of the words of other Christian teachers: therefore he says concerning those who did thus pervert them, "their condemnation is just :" they will be justly condemned for thus abusing the doctrine which we teach. The passage, however,

clearly shows, that the application of their expressions to the encouragement of licentiousness of life was an application contrary to their intention; and, in fact, a perversion of their words.

In like manner in the same chapter our apostle had no sooner laid down the doctrine, that "a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law," than he checks himself, as it were, by subjoining this proviso: "Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law:" Whatever he meant by his assertion concerning faith, he takes care to let them know he did not mean this, "to make void the law," or to dispense with obedience.

[ocr errors]

But the clearest text to our purpose is that, undoubtedly, which I have prefixed to this discourse. Saint Paul, after expatiating largely upon the "grace," that is, the favour, kindness, and mercy of God, the extent, the greatness, the comprehensiveness of that mercy, as manifested in the Christian dispensation, puts this question to his reader-" What shall we say then? shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?" which he answers by a strong negative"God forbid." What the apostle designed in this

passage is sufficiently evident.

He knew in what

manner some might be apt to construe his expressions: and he anticipates their mistake. He is beforehand with them, by protesting against any such use being made of his doctrine; which, yet he was aware, might by possibility be made.

By way of showing scripturally the obligation and the necessity of personal endeavours after virtue, all the numerous texts which exhort to virtue, and admonish us against vice, might be quoted; for they are all directly to the purpose: that is, we might quote every page of the New Testament. "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my father which is in heaven." "If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them." In both these texts the reward attends the doing: the promise is annexed to works. Again; "To them, who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory and immortality, eternal life: but unto them that are contentious, and obey not the truth, but obey unrighteousness, tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that doeth evil." Again; "Of the which," namely, certain enumerated vices, "I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they, which do such things, shall not inherit the kingdom of God." These are a few amongst many texts of the same effect, and they are such as can never be got over. Stronger terms cannot be devised than what are here used. Were the purpose, therefore,



simply to prove from Scripture the necessity of virtue, and the danger of vice, so far as salvation is concerned, these texts are decisive. But when an answer is to be given to those, who so interpret certain passages of the apostolic writings, especially the passages which speak of the efficacy of the death of Christ, or draw such inferences from these passages, as amount to a dispensing with the obligations of virtue; then the best method of proving, that theirs cannot be a right interpretation, nor theirs just inferences, is, by showing, (which fortunately we are able to do,) that it is the very interpretation, and these the very inferences, which the apostles were themselves aware of, which they provided against, and which they protested against. The four texts, quoted from the apostolic writings in this discourse, were quoted with this view: and they may be considered, I think, as showing the minds of the authors upon the point in question more determinately, than any general exhortation to good works, or any general denunciation against sin could do. I assume, therefore, as a proved point, that whatever was said by the apostles concerning the efficacy of the death of Christ was said by them under an apprehension, that they did not thereby in any manner relax the motives, the obligation, or the necessity of good works. But still there is another important question behind; namely, whether, notwithstanding what the apostles have said, or may have meant to say, there be not, in the nature of things, an invincible inconsistency between the

efficacy of the death of Christ, and the necessity of a good life; whether those two propositions can, in fair reasoning, stand together; or whether it does not necessarily follow, that if the death of Christ be efficacious, then good works are no longer necessary; and, on the other hand, that, if good works be still necessary, then is the death of Christ not efficacious.

Now, to give an account of this question, and of the difficulty which it seems to present, we must bear in mind, that in the business of salvation there are naturally and properly two things, viz. the cause and the condition; and that these two things are different. We should see better the propriety of this distinction, if we would allow ourselves to consider well what salvation is: what the being saved means. It is nothing less than, after this life is ended, being placed in a state of happiness exceedingly great, both in degree and duration; a state, concerning which the following things are said: "the sufferings of this present world are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed." "God hath in store for us such things as pass man's understanding." So that, you see, it is not simply escaping punishment, simply being excused or forgiven, simply being compensated or repaid for the little good we do, but it is infinitely more. Heaven is infinitely greater than mere compensation, which natural religion itself might lead us to expect. What do the Scriptures call it?


Glory, honour, immortality, eternal life." "To them that seek for glory and honour and immortality,

eternal life." Will any one then contend, that salvation in this sense, and to this extent; that heaven, eternal life, glory, honour, immortality; that a happiness such as that there is no way of describing it, but by saying that it surpasses human comprehension, that it casts the sufferings of this life at such a distance, as not to bear any comparison with it-will any one contend, that this is no more than what virtue deserves, what, in its own proper nature, and by its own merit, it is entitled to look forward to, and to receive? The greatest virtue that man ever attained has no such pretensions. The best good action that man ever performed has no claim to this extent, or any thing like it. It is out of all calculation, and comparison, and proportion above, and more than, any human works can possibly deserve.

To what then are we to ascribe it, that endeavours after virtue should procure, and that they will, in fact, procure, to those who sincerely exert them, such immense blessings? To what, but to the voluntary bounty of Almighty God, who, in his good pleasure, hath appointed it so to be? The benignity of God towards man hath made him this inconceivably advantageous offer. But a most kind offer may still be a conditional offer. And this, though an infinitely gracious and beneficial offer, is still a conditional offer, and the performance of the conditions is as necessary, as if it had been an offer of mere retribution. The kindness, the bounty, the generosity of the offer, do not make it the less necessary to perform

« VorigeDoorgaan »