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1. Among fallen creatures those are mercifully distinguished who are provided with an atonement. Sin destroys all the moral beauty of an intelligent creature, and incurs a penalty which, if it be executed, will render him most wretched through an interminable duration. How dreadful the thought, to be for ever a lothsome and wretched criminal, shut up in the prison of divine government, abhorred of God and all holy beings, and at the same time devoid of any self respect. What favor can be shown to creatures thus fallen and ruined, equal to that of providing a way for their regaining the lost image and friendship of their Creator ? The apostates who receive this favor are distinguished advantageously, and mercifully too ; because good, great good is received, where the greatest evil was deserved. The atonement is not provided to help out the law, as if this were incomplete without that. The law, viewed by itself, furnishes means for a perfect system of administration. If therefore such as have fallen by the law, are provided with an atonement, it is all mercy. Brethren of the human race ! let us admire that wonderful display of goodness, by which the Creator has made us to differ from the fallen angels. We were involved in one common apostacy with them; but an atonement he has provided exclusively for us. Could we but see how ruined and wretched are our circumstances, the relief brought us by the atonement would not be lightly esteemed.
2. We can now see why the rejection of the atonement is represen. ted to be pre-eminently the sin which shuts us out of heaven. Certain it is that such is the .scriptural representation : “ He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life, and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life ; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation ?” The atonement has made provision for all sin to be removed and pardoned : “ The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin.” Let our sins be ever so many and great, they will not ruin us, provided we accept of this provision which has been made for our redemption. It is therefore the rejection of this glorious provision, rather than our other sins, which ultimately proves our ruin. Under the light of the gospel, we are not so properly condemned to suffer the pains of the second death, because we have transgressed God's law, as because we have rejected his Son. “ He that believeth not shall be damned.” “ There remaineth no more sacrifice for sins."
IN VIEW OF THE ATONEMENT, SALVATION IS FREELY OFFERED TO EVERY MAN, AND MAY BECOME HIS, ON HIS ACCEPTANCE OF THE OF.
A PROVISION being made for the forgiveness of sin, the way is pre. pared for salvation to be freely offered to sinners. The invitation is given, Come,' for all things are now ready. The mere provision of an atonement, does not place us in a state of forgiveness : for though the provision could not be more ample, the children of Adam are still in rebellion, and the wrath of God abideth on them. John iii. 36. And it must abide on them, until the terms of reconciliation are complied with. It was not possible that any thing should be done, that could reconcile a God of holiness to such of his rebellious creatures as go on still in their trespasses. Ps. lxvii. 21. The gospel is infinitely gracious; and yet it contains conditions ; conditions which must be com. plied with, else its salvation can never be enjoyed. On the prescribed conditions, which are invariably the same, the salvation is proffered to every man, and will be secured to each, the moment he yields his consent to them.
Salvation (as we now use the word) does not so properly mean a deliverance from sin, as from its deserved punishment. When any one accepts the proffered salvation, it supposes deliverance from the domin. ion of sin is begun; and we know that where it is begun, there is an assurance of its ultimate completion : but the salvation that is offered to those who comply with the terms, is a deliverance from the bitter consequences of sin.
Some may think, that conditions have no place in a free salvation. But in truth, the gospel, as well as the law, has its conditions, and must have them ; unless the Supreme Ruler had consented to an entire relinquishment of his authority over his revolted subjects. A gift, as well as wages, may he bestowed on conditions. You may require a beggar to ask, as the condition of receiving his alms, as well as require the laborer to work to earn his wages. The word conditions does not necessarily suppose the existence of merit in the man who complies with them. It is, for aught I can see, just as proper to talk of the conditions of the covenant of grace, as of the covenant of works. In the covenant of grace, asking is made the condition of receiving unme. rited favors ; repenting and believing are conditions of forgiveness and acceptance in Christ, as much as perfect obedience to the righteousness of the law is the condition of acceptance in the covenant of works. But you will say, is not prayer itself, together with repentance and faith, the gift of God? Grant it; yet this does not preclude their being con. ditions of receiving other blessings. Though it is by the grace of God that we are enabled to pray, repent, and believe; yet prayer, faith,
and repentance, are our acts, as much as the pure worship and obedience of sinless angels are their acts. Nor is their obedience any more independent of divine help than ours.
In spreading out this Article before the reader, these four things will be particularly considered : I. The favorable or merciful conditions on which salvation is offered. II. The extensiveness of the offer. III. The variety of ways in which it is presented. IV. What is implied in its being accepted.
I. Let us look at the mercifulness of the conditions on which salvation is offered. Though merit is excluded, yet something is to be done on our part, to give us an interest in the salvation of the gospel. The conditions proposed are not designed to throw any unnecessary embarrassments in our way, or to render salvation at all difficult to such as pant for a release from “ sin's old yoke and Satan's chain.' Far oth. erwise ; the conditions are such as show the salvation to be wholly of grace; such as bring eternal life within the reach of ruined sinners moral bankrupts. They bring this infinite good within the reach of every man. Whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely. All the blessings procured by the atonement are as free and unxepensive as water; and no one who is willing to receive them will remain destitute. If the atonement had been made for some particular sins, but not for all manner of sins, yours might be a hopeless case.
Should a wealthy man undertake to pay a certain per centage on the debts of his impoverished neighbor, this might nevertheless be so inadequate to his real necessities as to leave him still in the debtor's jail. But should this wealthy friend kindly offer the payment of all his debts, and leave nothing for him to do, except to feel and express his obligation for the kindness, he could not say, the provision did not fully meet his wants. Let me suppose another case, which, on some accounts, will more resemble the one we wish to illustrate : A man has committed a crime that exposes him to a lasting confinement in the criminals jail. Some compassionate individual has interposed, and made such an honorable satisfaction to the law, that he can now be liberated from his confine. ment, as soon as he shall heartily approve of the law, and disapprove of his own conduct in the violation of it. Would not this be proclaim. ing liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound? Difficulties might still remain to prevent his enjoying the benefit of this interposition in his behalf; for he may have no generous relentings for his crime, nor any willingness to regard in future the law that has condemned him to imprisonment. But all those difficul. ties which arise from a perverse and unyielding spirit, he ought not to reckon among the things that make the conditions of his release appear to him hard. These moral difficulties notwithstanding, it can with propriety be said, the terms are brought down to his circumstances ; they are as low as they possibly could be. Were the least sum of money to be required of the bankrupt, or the least merit of the criminal, the terms would not be sufficiently low to bring deliverance within their reach; for the bankrupt has no money, and the criminal no merit. Nor would it be in the power of the best feelings of heart which they might now possess, to remove difficulties of this nature. With these illustrations in view, I am prepared to say, the terms of
gospel salvation are as low as possible ; bringing deliverance, even from an eternal imprisonment, within every man's reach.
The question, then, does not remain to be settled, whether provision shall be made, nor whether it shall be adequate to our wants. The provision is already made, and could not be more ample. There is therefore now no place for the inquiry, Who shall go for us up to heaven, or descend into the deep, or go over the sea, to bring us salvation? for it is already brought, and is very nigh to us; and assurance is given, that if we believe in our heart, and confess with our mouth, we shall be saved. Deut. XXX. 11–14. Rom. x. 6—9. Let us now consider,
II. The extensiveness of the gospel offer. It is made without any restriction. No individual is excepted. The death of Christ for the sin of the whole world, gives every sinner in the world a right to apply its benefits to himself. So the matter is repesented in that well known text, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosover believeth in him should not perish, but have everlast.
John iii. 16.' When Christ refers to the case of the brazen serpent, to illustrate his being lifted up upon the cross, he declares this to be the express design of his crucifixion, “that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life." Joho iii. 14–16. The brazen serpent was the divinely appointed antidote for the bite of the fiery serpents to the whole camp of Israel. It was so effectual as not to fail in a single instance where it was made use of. It needed only to be looked upon, and the cure was wrought. And to bring it within the view of all, it was lifted up on a pole, and placed in the midst of
In like manner, the Savior would have us consider his death on the cross, as the divinely appointed remedy for the venomous bite of that old serpent, the devil. Like the type, its design was not to prevent, but to remove the evil. And as in the case of the type, so here, this privilege is proffered to all without any discrimination. Is any one bitten with the fiery serpent ? let him look to the cross of Christ and be healed. If he should say, How do I know this privilege be. longs to me? I answer, You may know it belongs to you, because it belongs to all. Since the scriptures exhibit the death of Christ as a sacrifice for sin, without naming any individuals for whom he suffered ; and since they inform us, that whosoever believeth in him will receive the benefits of his death, the inference would be natural, that the offers of salvation are designed to be unlimited. But in a matter of so much consequence to our immortal interests, we are not left to depend on mere inference. That we are authorized to make the offer of eternal salvation to all the inhabitants of our fallen world, is exceedingly plain. Invitations to partake of this immense good are numerous; and they are both general and particular.
First. They are general. What can be more general than this invitation of Wisdom? “ Unto you, O men, I call, and my voice is to the sons of men.” Prov. viii. 4. That in this address, Christ (who is the Wisdom of God) uses the words men and the sons of men, in the most unrestricted sense, may be inferred from a passage in the prophe. cy of Isaiah, where he says, “ Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth." How could the invitation be more extensive than to embrace all the ends of the earth?
Jeids and gentiles, in scripture phrase, comprise all the tribes of Adam, and both these divisions of mankind are named in the invitation. Concerning the Jews there can surely be no question; for Christ tells us, salvation is of the Jews. The personal ministry of the Savior was confined to the lost sheep, of the house of Israel, and the apostles were required to begin their ministry at Jesusalem, making the first offer of the benefits of a Savior's death to those who had shed his blood; and then to extend the offer to sinners of all nations. Luke xxiv. 47–49. Paul gloried in being called " the apostle of the gentiles." To him the Redeemer appeared in a vision, when he was at Jreusalem, and said, "I will send thee far hence unto the gentiles.” To them he was specially sent, that he might turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God. Acts xxi. 21, and xxvi. 18.
Secondly. The invitations of the gospel are particular. There is danger we shall imagine that an offer, which is made to the whole world, or to the whole nation, is not made to ourselves.
To prevent this abuse of general offers, we are frequeatly addressed in our indivi. dual capacity. We are not only informed that Christ made a propitia. tion for the sins of “the whole world,” but also, that he tasted death for every man. The commission to proclaim the news of salvation, which our Lord gave to his apostles, was particular as well as general. He commanded them to teach all nations, and to preach the gospel to every creature. In the parable of the marriage supper, the servants received this direction; “Go therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find bid to the marriage.” Matt. xxii. 9. Their liberty to invite could not have been more unrestricted. Wherever they should find a fellow mortal, they had authority from their Master to present him with an invitation, the acceptance of which would secure to him blessings as lasting as eternity.
The gospel offer makes no distinction between the sexes ; both are freely invited. We read that the apostles baptized both men and women; of course they must have preached the gospel to both. At Philippi Paul once preached to an audience wholly composed of females. Acts xvi. 13. Yordh are very specially invited, yet not to the exclusion of the aged. “Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth.” “They that seek me early shall find me.” Ecc. xii. i. Prov. viii. 17 But they who have idled away almost the whole of their probation, are still invited to go and work in the vineyard of God, with the promise that they too shall receive their penny. Matt. xx. 6,7.
Men of every rank in society are presented with the gospel invitation. Kings and judges of the earth are called upon to kiss the Son, and experience the blessedness of those who put their trust in him: and the poor also have the gospel preached to them. Ps. ii. 10–12. Matt. xi. 5. The gospel proffers its blessings alike to the learned and the un. learned. Philosophers may become Christians, if they will but sit at the feet of Christ and hear his word ; if they will become fools that they may be wise. i Cor. iii. 18.
The errors which men have adopted furnish no reason for withhold. ing from them the offers of salvation. Every scheme of religion that is not evangelical, must be renounced when the gospel is embraced ; but tio scheme can be so false, as to exclude its devotees from a right