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infancy, will, I suppose, be allowed to be, universally, instances of this kind. Concerning all the instances, which exist, of both these classes, it must be acknowledged, that without exception ihey are the subjects of justification; and that they are in no sense justified on account of their own righteousness; but solely by the free grace of God, on account of the righteousness of Christ. If, then, others are justified partially, on account of their own righteousness; justification is given to some of mankind on one ground, or procuring cause, and to others on another, and very different ground. But no such doctrine is any where taught, or even hinted at, in the Scriptures; and I presume, that no intelligent man, acquainted with them, will pretend, that any such diversity exists in the justification of mankind.
2dly. The Scriptures no where teach us, that we are justified parily on account of our own righteousness, and partly on account of the righteousness of Christ.
St. Paul, in the 27th verse of the context, pursuing the subject of justification by the free grace of God, says, Where is boasting, then? It is excluded. By what Law? Of works ? Nay; but by the law of faith. Here we are taught, that all boasting is absolutely excluded; and that it is excluded, not by the law of works, but by the law of faith. But the same Apostle says, that to him that workcth the reward is reckoned, not of grace, but of debt : that is, the reward of justification and its consequences would be due to him, who received it on account of his works. He, then, certainly might boast: that is, he might truly say, that he had merited justification by his own works. If he had merited justification partly by his own works, he can truly boast of having merited that part of his justification. Boasting, therefore, cannot, on this plan of
, justification, be excluded. Yet the Apostle elsewhere teaches us, that it was one end of the system of redemption, as established by God, that no flesh should glory in his presence, but that he who glo. rieth, should glory only in Christ. 1 Cor. i. 29–31.
Besides, it is incredible, if this doctrine be true, that no mention of it should be made in the Scriptures. I know of no passage in the Scriptures, so much relied on by its abettors, as the discourse of St. James in the 2d Chapter of bis Epistle. In a future discourse 1 design to examine the account, given of this subject by St. James; and expect to show, that he furnishes no support to it. Should I succeed in this expectation, it will probably be admitted by those who hear me, that the doctrine finds no countenance in the Scriptures, and must therefore be given up.
3dly. The works of the best men never fulfil the demands of the Law; and therefore cannot be the ground, either wholly, or partially, of their justification.
In the conclusion of the 7th chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, St. Paul describes his own state, as it was when he wrote this Epistle; or, generally, after his conversion. As this assertion has
been doubted; and as respectable Divines have supposed this discourse to be an account of St. Paul's state before he was converted; I shall attempt to prove the truth of my assertion. This I shall do, very summarily, in the three following remarks.
ist. St. Paul observes, verse 22d, I delight in the law of God, after the inward man. This assertion was never true of any man, antecedently to his regeneration. St. Paul does not say, that he approves of the law of God. This would have been a declaration concerning his reason, or his conscience. But he says, I delight in the Law of God. This is a declaration concerning his feelings ; his heart. The heart of an unregenerate man never yet delighted in the Divine Law.
2dly. In the 24th verse, he exclaims, O wretched man, that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
From this exclamation it is certain, that the evil, from which St. Paul so passionately wished a deliverance, was existing at the time when the passage was written. But at the time when the passage was written, St. Paul had been a convert many years. The evil existed, therefore, after his conversion.
3dly. In the 25th verse, he says, So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God.
This assertion could never be truly made concerning any unregenerate man. The mind of every such man, we know from the mouth of the same Apostle, is enmity against God; not subject to his Law, neither indeed can be.
The account given by St. Paul of himself in this chapter, is, then, an account of his moral state, at the time when the chapter was written. As St. Paul in all probability was inferior to no other mere man, in moral excellence; he may be justly considered as having given us, here, a description of Christians in their very best state.
But, if in this state there is a law in their members, warring against the law of their minds, and bringing them into captivity to the law of sin, which is in their members ; if when they would do good, evil is present with them; so that the good which they would they do not; and the evil which they would not they do; how plain is it, that, instead of meriting justification by their works, they daily violate the law of God, provoke his anger, expose themselves to condemnation, and stand in infinite need of the intercession of Christ, and the pardon of their sins, in order to their salvation !
Besides, the very best actions of regenerated men are imperfect; and fall short of the demands of the Law. This position is so rarely contested, that I need not here allege arguments, to evince its truth. But it cannot be pretended, that an obedience, which does not even answer the demands of the Law in any case, but is invariably defective, and therefore in some degree sinful, can be the ground of justification to any man.
I have now finished the observations, which I intended concerning this subject. If I mistake not, they furnish ample proof, that we are justified freely by the grace of God, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. A few remarks shall conclude the dise
1st. From what has been said it is evident, that the salvation of mankind is a glorious exhibition of the character, and particularly of the Benevolence, of God.
On this subject I cannot dwell; and shall only observe summari. ly, that the work of our salvation was contrived, and accomplished, by God alone: that the means, by which it was accomplished, viz. the Mediation of Christ, and the mission and agency of the Holy Ghost, far from lessening, only enhance, our conceptions of the Divine Benevolence, displayed in this work : that the goodwill, manifested in doing any thing, is ever proportioned to the efforts, which are made : that, in the present case, the efforts, actually made, are the most wonderful, which have been disclosed to the Universe ; and that they, therefore, discover the good-will of the Creator tó mankind, in a manner, and in a degree, wholly unex. ampled.
All this, at the same time, was done for beings entirely unneces. sary to God. In himself, therefore; in his own compassion; must have existed, the originating, powerful, and productive cause of this wonderful event. What must have been the good-will of Him, who sent his Son to seek, and to save, that which was lost; and to become obedient unto death, even the death of the cross, that sinners and rebels might live?
2dly. The Socinian objection against the doctrine of the Atonement, that it is opposed to the Scriptural account of the exercise of grace in our justification, is here seen to be groundless.
If the observations, made in this discourse, are true; the doctrine of the atonement, instead of lessening, or destroying, the exercise of grace in our justification, only renders this act of God more eminently gracious. If all these things, which have been mentioned, particularly the atonement of Christ
, were necessary to be done, in order to the salvation of mankind, the
mercy, which resolved on them all, is far more strongly displayed, than if nothing more had been necessary, than barely to forgive the sinner.
3dly. If God be thus merciful, all the declarations of his mercy ought to be believed by us.
The disposition, which could contrive, and execute, these things, of its own mere choice; without any reward; without any expectation of any reward; for beings equally undeserving, and unnecessary; can do all things, which are kind, and proper to be done. Especially can this disposition carry the things, which it has contrived, and begun intocomplete execution. To do this is its own natural bent ; the mere progress of its inherent propensities. The declarations therefore, which manifest the determination of him, in
whom this disposition resides, to accomplish all things pertaining to this work, ought cordially, as well as entirely, to be believed. To distrust them is equally absurd, and guilty: absurd, because they are supported by the most abundant evidence; guilty, because the distrust springs from the heart, and not from the understanding
Why should God be disbelieved, when he declares, that he has no pleasure in the death of the sinner? or when he proclaims, Whosoeder will, let him come, and take the water of life freely? If he had wished to punish mankind, for the gratification of his own views, or pleasure, could he not have done it with infinite ease? To him it was certainly unnecessary to announce the forgiveness of sin; to send his Son to die, or to give bis Spirit, and his Word, to sanctify, and save. This immense preparation depended solely on his own mere pleasure. He might have suffered the law to take its course. He might have annihilated, or punished for ever, the whole race of Adam; and with a command have raised up a new and better world of beings in their stead. Men are in no sense necessary to God. He might have filled the Universe with Angels at once; perfect, obedient, excellent, and glorious beings; and been loved, praised, and obeyed, by them for ever. Why then, but because he was desirous to save poor, guilty, perishing men, did he enter upon the work of their salvation? Why did he give his Son, lo redeem them? Why did he send his Spirit, to sanctify them? Why did he proclaim glad tidings of great joy unto all people? Why does he wait with infinite patience, why has he always waited, to be gracious ; amid all the provocations, and sins, of this polluted world? Why are the calls of mercy, after being so long, and so extensively, rejected with scorn and insult, repeated through one age after another? Why, after all our unbelief, are they repeated to us? Why are we, after all our transgressions, assembled, this day, to hear them? The true, the only, answer is; God is infinitely kind, merciful, and willing to save to the uttermost.
Let, then, this glorious Being be believed without distrust: without delay. Let every sinner boldly come to the throne of grace; to the door of life ; and be assured, that, if he desires sincerely to enter, he will not be shut out.
JUSTIFICATION. THE DUTY OF BELIEVING.
Romans iii. 28— Therefore we conclude, that a man is justified by faith, without the
deeds of the Law :
MORE CORRECTLY RENDERED, Therefore we conclude, that Man is justified by faith, without works of Low.
In the last discourse, I attempted to show, that in consequence of the redemption of Christ, Man is justified freely by the grace of God. The grace of God is the source, the moving cause, of this blessing to mankind. The next subject of consideration, before us, is the Means, by which man, in the economy of redemption, becomes entitled to this blessing. These, in the text, are summed up in the single article, Faith ; which is here declared to be the instrument of justification. To elucidate this truth is the design, with which I have selected the present theme of discourse.
But before I enter upon the doctrine in form, it will be necessary to remind you, that an Objection is raised against it at the threshold; which, if founded in truth, would seem to overthrow it at once. It is this: that faith is so far from being of a moral nature, as to be necessary, and unavoidable : man being absolutely passive in believing, and under a physical impossibility of doing otherwise than he actually does ; whether in believing, or disbelieving. Of course, it is further urged, An attribute, governed wholly by physical necessity, can never recommend us to God; much less become the ground of so important a blessing, as justification.
It will be easily seen that, so long as this objection has its hold on the mind, and is allowed its full import, the doctrine of justification by faith can never be received, unless in a very imperfect and unsatisfactory manner. If faith is a thing, over which we have no control ; if we believe only under the influence of a physical necessity, and, whether we believe or disbelieve, it is physically impossible for us to do otherwise ; then it is plain, that Faith is so far from being praiseworthy, amiable, and capable of recommending us to God, as to merit and sustain no moral character at all. According to this scheme, therefore, faith and unbelief, being equally and absolutely involuntary and unavoidable, can never constitute a moral distinction between men. Faith can never be an object of the approbation; nor unbelief of the disapprobation of God. Much less can we be praiseworthy in believing, or blameable in disbelieving. Still less can we on one of these grounds be rewarded, and on the other punished. Least of all can we,