« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »
him of guilt, because he is guilty. Under mere law, the only situation in which he can be, independently of the redemption of Christ, he can never be justified nor rewarded, but must be condemned and punished. In this situation, an atonement for his sins, such as God with propriety can and will accept, is just as necessary for man as his salvation. No being in the universe could, so far as we are able to discern, render this atonement except Christ. All other beings are, in the nature of things, under every possible obligation to render to God all the services in their power, as their own proper obedience, an obedience indispensably necessary for their own justification. A supererogatory service does not appear to be possible for any created being, as there is no service which he can render to God which is not his indispensable duty. Thus, so far as we are able to discern, the atonement of Christ is absolutely necessary for the human race, and without it we can conceive of no possible way of salvation.
V. The same doctrine equally teaches the absolute necessity of regeneration to mankind.
That' without holiness no man shall see the Lord,' is a doctrine so evidently rational and just, that it cannot but be believed by every sober man, even independently of the express declaration of the Scriptures. But without regeneration man is only unholy, and can therefore never see the Lord.' The first great effect of the redemption of Christ is to render it possible for man to become holy, in order to his justification and acceptance. Had the dispensation stopped here, man would still have been lost. The next step in this wonderful procedure is the renovation of man, or that implantation of holiness in his heart, styled in the Scriptures, regeneration or the new birth. From the commencement of this great change in his character, he becomes the subject of evangelical holiness; of real piety, real benevolence, real self-government, or, generally, of real obedience to God. All his obedience however is imperfect, and could not be accepted but for the sake of Christ. His mediation, his righteousness, is the sweet incense' which persumes every offering and act of man, and renders it acceptable before that pure and awful Being, ‘in whose sight the heavens themselves are not clean.' But,
though imperfectly holy, man when renewed is really holy. • There is some good thing found in him towards the Lord God of Israel. This, as a seed of inestimable worth, is seen by the all-searching eye to promise a future and eternal production of fruits, invainable in their nature, and endless in their multitude.
VI. With equal evidence we are here taught the necessity of the mission of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the only author of the regeneration of
• That which is born of the flesh is fiesh: that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.' 'Except a man be boru of the Spirit, he cannot see the kingdom of God.' • Not hy works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his own mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost.' As therefore, regeneration is absolutely necessary to man, and as man is renewed only by the Holy Spirit, so the mission of the Spirit is as necessary to man as his regeneration, and both are no less necessary than his eternal life.
On these three great evangelical doctrines I have here descanted very briefly, because they will hereafter be primary subjects of investigation. They have been now mentioned chiefly to show their connection with the doctrine of human depravity, and the manner in which they necessarily arise out of this part of the scriptural scheme.
VII. The same considerations also teach us the manner in which a preacher ought to address mankind.
Every congregation will be regarded by a minister of Christ, who discerns this doctrine to be what it plainly is, a leading doctrine of the Scriptures, as a collection of depraved, guilty beings, exposed to endless punishment for their sins. On this basis will all bis sermons be founded; and to this point will they all refer. He will exhort them to repent; because they are sinners, and therefore need repentance.
He will exhort them to believe in Christ; because they cannot save themselves, and because He can, and if they believe in him, will. save them. He will teach them to seek for pardon of God; because they are sinners, and must either be pardoned or lost; to rely on the grace of God for their justification, because they have no merit of their own; and if they depend on their own righteousness, cannot be saved; and to feel the necessity of sanctification, because' without holiness no man shall see the Lord ;' and because without the sanctification of the Spirit of grace, no man can become holy.
The · terrors of the law' he will set before his bearers in their own awful light, because by these, and by nothing but these, such beings can ordinarily be persuaded.' The gospel he will declare to be 'glad tidings of great joy;' because it is the news of forgiveness, justification and everlasting life, to sinners who would otherwise perish. Mercy he will unfold as the peculiar . glory of God in the highest,' and as eminently displayed when : peace and good-will' are published to mankind. The distinguishing excellence of the Redeemer he will explain to be his willingness to seek, and save that which was lost.' The duty of Christians, now become peculiarly their duty, he will teach to consist in denying all ungodliness and worldly lusts, and living soberly, righteously, and godly in the world.' Thus, whether God or man, the law or the gospel, heaven or hell, morality or piety, are the themes of his preaching, he will make the corruption of the human heart the foundation on which all will be built, the great point to which all will be continually referred.
These are subjects of preaching which cannot fail to interest the preacher who really believes them, or the hearers who listen to them with serious attention. They state to man,
. they bring to full view, they carry home to the heart, his real condition and only hope. He sees, if not prevented by sottish sloth or criminal prejudice, that the whole is the truth of God, truth infinitely important to himself, ' commending' itselfto his conscience,' explaining his danger, disclosing the only way of escape, unfolding deliverance from hell, and pointing out the path to heaven. The preacher who utters these things is readily believed to have a real meaning, when he speaks of the solemnity and importance of religion, and presses upon his hearers the necessity of embracing it. They clearly discern that there is something, which they easily comprehend, to be done by them, and a momentous reason why it should be done ; that a change real, great and indispensable, is to be accomplished in their character, and that, unless it is accom
plished, they must perish. Christianity hence assumes a solemnity which can be derived from no other considerations, and accords with no other scheme.
The preacher who regards man as originally virtuous, can neither explain to him his guilt nor his danger, show him the necessity of Christ's mediation, or the importance of an interest in it, explain to him the value of faith or the use of repentance, nor exhort him to fly to the mercy of God for forgiveness or sanctification. He urges, therefore, a religion in in which both his hearers and himself find little interest. His addresses to them are naturally made up of cold, commonplace morality, such as Plato taught long since, and taught much better, or at least with greater force. They of course become dull and lifeless, unfrequent visitors to the house of God; and when there, are rarely of that number' who have ears to hear.'
VIII. In the same manner are all men taught how they ought to regard themselves in their religious concerns.
The question, What will become of me hereafter? is of infinite moment to every child of Adam, and is to be always determined by the true answer to another, Am I virtuous or sinful?
The man who commences his moral course with a full conviction of his guilt, his exposure to the wrath of God, and his danger of final condemnation, will, if he goes on, direct his feet into a path widely distant from that which is pursued by men directed by the contrary doctrines. To such a man, all the accounts given in the Scriptures, and in religious discourses built on the Scriptures, concerning human guilt and danger, will be true and important. The tidings of redemption will be to him ' tidings of great joy,' because they are directed to such a creature as himself. Christ to him will be infinitely precious, because he is the Saviour of sinners. The renewing power and goodness of the Spirit of grace will appear to him unspeakably necessary and desirable, because, without this divine energy exerted on his heart, he will be a sinner for ever. To the atonement of Christ he will fly for refuge, because he cannot make an atonement for himself. To the purifying influence of the Divine Spirit he will look for his preservation
in holiness, and his safe arrival in the kingdom of life, because he will know that he cannot preserve nor conduct himself to that kingdom.
As a sinner he will feel himself guilty, condemned and ruined ; but, as an object of the divine mercy he will see glorious hopes dawning upon him from heaven. Separated from Christ, he will feel that he can do nothing'effectual toward his salvation ; but as a candidate for heaven by faith, repentance and holiness, he will discern that all things' may be done for him by the Spirit of God. Left to himself he will perceive that he must die for ever, but that in Christ be
may for ever live.
With these views, all his self-examination, prayers, praises, hopes, resolutions and efforts will take their peculiar character from the great truth, that he is a depraved, ruined creature. His whole life, therefore, will be the life of a believing, penitent, and returning sinner, owing infinite blessings to the mere grace of God; and he will find more to animate his love, faithfulness, and gratitude than an angel with the same powers could feel, because he is a forgiven and restored creature ; forgiven an immense debt, and restored to holiness and endless life.
But if a sinner feel himself to be originally virtuous, he will feebly realize his guilt, his danger, or his need of a Saviour. The necessity of being born again, of being sanctified, guided, and quickened by the Spirit of God, he cannot know. Justification he will regard as due to him, as the proper reward of his merit, and holiness, as his original character, the native growth of his mind. He may, indeed, admit it to be imperfect, and to require some additions ; yet even these he will esteem rather as advantageous than necessary. Christ he will consider rather as a convenience, as an auxiliary to him, than as his Saviour. His ultimate reliance will be on himself, not on the Redeemer. The Gospel, instead of being the only and most joyful news of salvation to sinners, will be considered by him merely as a valuable book, somewhat better than any volume of philosophy, in which some interesting instructions may be found, and some useful precepts are given ; but which is not indispensable to his eternal life. In a word, according to his predominant feeling, both he and others like him might have done very well without the gospel here, and, with little danger of failure, might have obtained salvation beyond the grave,