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the righteous only. He would have despised the least intimation of the salvation of sinners. He would, no doubt, have looked on such intimation, as an heresy of a most dangerous tendency. But the case with the great Apostle of the Gentiles was very different. He had been led to see, that, not as a righteous man, but as the chief of sinners he had been visited with the abundance of that grace by which he was so highly distinguished. He therefore looked on himself as sufficient proof of the testimony which he bore. Such as the following were, no doubt, the reflections of his mind; I know for certainty, that I was a most deadly enemy of this lovely Jesus whom I now delight to serve; I know, that in my opposition to this religion, I was exceedingly mad, and I caused many of the harmless, inoffensive disciples of Christ, both men and women, to feel the weight of my displeasure. Such was my blind zeal, such the enmity that rankled in my heart against him and his doctrine, who was a friend to sinners, that “I thought I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus ;” and I persecuted the saints “unto the death.” But, I wonderful to behold! I am now a most joyful subject of that grace to which I was such an enemy. From such reflections might very justly be drawn this conclusion; “ This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.”
This testimony, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners is sufficiently corroborated by other scriptures. When those, in the days of Jesus, who thought they were righteous and despised others, found fault with the Saviour, because he was a friend to sinners, he plainly told them, that he “came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance;" he furthermore represented the same divine truth in that remarkably instructive saying ; “ The whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.” Moreover, he enlarged on this subject in several beautiful parables, the design of which was to re; present the repentance of sinners. The blessed Redeemer testified that “ God sent not his son into the world, to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.” The declaration of the Angel to Joseph, “ Thou shalt call his name Jesus for he shall save his people from their sins," is in direct proof of what is testified in our text.
There are two good reasons why Jesus was not sent to call the righteous. First. There were none. “ When God looked down from heaven upon the ehildren of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are altogether become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.'
After the Apostle had described, in his epistle to the Romans, the abominable character of the wicked, he adds; “ What tben, are we better than they? no, in no wise: for we have before proved both ? Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; as it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one.” Again to the same point; “ For all have sinped and came short of the glory of God.” Secondly. If there had been any righteous, they would not have needed Jesus to call them to repentance. It is as improper for a righteous man to repent, as it is for a well man to take medicine. If the man in health should take medicine, it would be likely to render him indisposed; and if a righteous man should repent, he would render himself wicked.
If it be allowed, as has been proved, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, and that the gospel seeks, as subjects of its grace, sinners only, then it should never be argued, that there are some who cannot be saved because they are sinners.This contains the absurdity, that, that wbich renders salvation necessary is an objection to it. If we may further notice the observation of the Saviour, it is pertinent to remark on the impropriety of saying, that because the patient is sick, therefore, the phy. sician will administer or prescribe nothing. Nor would the extremity of a case render the objection in the least plausible, unless the malady was of such a nature as to bid defiance to the power of medicine, but on the contrary, the more indisposed the patient might be, the greater would be the urgency for relief. It is granted, that this calculation is not a little wide from that which is more common, in which it is supposed, that the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ may extend to the condition of those who are sinners in a certain degree, beyond which point our spiritual physicians justify themselves in saying the grace of God can never extend. However, no small encouragement is derived from the divine testimony, that “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound : that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord.” These blessed words are “ like apples of gold in pictures of silver.” Never was cold water to the thirsty soul so grateful as these words of eternal life. · The attention of the hearer is now most earnestly invited to the consideration of the following question. What did Christ Jesus come into the world to save sinners from ? Your public servant has heretofore laboured this question in this place; but being persuaded that the general sentiment entertained among professed christians on this question is not according to scripture, it is felt to be a duty to endeavour to throw as much light on the subject as the present opportunity will permit.
No doubt many of the audience have already made up their minds, that the question proposed with so much solicitude is very easily answered, and is too free from difficulty to render much attention to the subject necessary.
Though it is greatly to be wished that this were the case, it is presumed that a concise view of the generally received opinion, on this subject, will at
once discover, that erroneous notions have been and still are entertained of it.
The general opinion, which we shall endeavour to disprove, supposes that “ Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” from the demands of vindictive justice, which recognised the whole sinful family of man under the penalty of endless punishment, frequently called eternal death. This opinion of the penalty required by the divine law is expressed in the Catechism as follows ; “All mankind, by reason of the fall, lost communion with God, fell under his wrath and curse, was made liable to the miseries of this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell forever.” From the everlasting pains of hell, the same creed teaches us to believe, that Jesus Christ was appointed to save a part, and but a part of mankind. The way by which it is supposed that the Saviour undertook to save sinners from eternal punishment, was by suffering the penalty in room of the sinner ; so that justice being satisfied, pardon and everlasting salvation could be granted to the guilty without any infringement of strict justice. Dr. Watts expresses this scheme of salvation nearly as follows ;
“I was a rebel doom'd to fire,
Assum'd my guilt and took my chains.”
In his own vital blood." But it is needless to take up time to be very particular in showing what this common sentiment is, for the most of us have been learning it from the beginning of childhood.
Some of the objections to this scheme of salvation are the following ; 1st. The total silence of the divine testimony respecting this supposed pen
alty of the divine law. In the divine threatening denounced in the garden there is nothing intimated concerning this penalty of“ eternal death,” or the
pains of hell forever.” In the malediction on Cain for the murder of his brother, there is nothing on this hereafter eternal penalty. In all the law given by Moses, containing a minute description of most terrible curses, which in severity extend to the utmost capacity of man to suffor in this life, there is not a single suggestion relating to this penalty of eternal punishment in a future state.
2. The supposition of such a penalty seems dishonourable to the divine Being, because it could not have been enacted with any design to reclaim the sinner; and must, therefore, be entirely repughant to the character of God as a Father of his creatures. A parent cannot, consistently with parental love, subject a child to any penalty for faults committed, which in room of being directed to reform, would inevitably prevent repentance and reformation forever. The word of God informs us, that he “ is love," and that he is “our Father in heaven." Now if this be true, the opinion, that there ever was any vindictive wrath in God, which demanded the sinner's eternal banishment from our Father in heaven inust be an egregious error, and one that very much obscures and dishonours the ever bles. sed Father of our spirits.
3. If mankind justly deserved this supposed penalty, on account of sins committed against the divine law, how could it possibly be just for one who was not a sinner to suffer it? To condemn the innocent and clear the guilty is strictly forbidden in the law.
4. The supposition, that this penalty did actually lie against the sinners which Jesus came to save, and that he, in the sinner's room and stead, did actually suffer this penalty, embraces the absurd supposition that Jesus suffered eternal misery in a few days.